Gallery

A Pile of Books I Read in 2021

Some I didn’t finish, some I didn’t start, some I’m reading by proximity until I get on to turning pages, some keep getting started and left when something I want to read immediately comes along, some just take me forever to finish.

Semi-alphabetically and fiction first (and I’m very out of practice with writing about what I’m reading):

Ben Aaronovitch is the not-TERF white dude writing actually good magical fantasy set in London. Yah, the main character is a cop and my current rule is “don’t engage with new stories if they humanise the piggos,” but I’ve been reading the series since 2017 when Gala slipped me one. What Abigail Did Last Summer is more Young Adult or whatever it gets called but my reading level is, “This. This I can read.’ I have the upcoming one on order, and that’s how I am with Ben.

More sci-fi with Charlie Jane Anders, and Victories Greater the Death is her best ever? I think so. Not enjoying waiting for the sequel though. Am enjoying the thought of it turned into a live-action series (movie?) with Wakanda’s own Michael B. Jordan.

I have been thinking about how many white trans femme or trans women authors and writers are about at the moment, how much media attention they’re getting (good attention, especially in traditional media; not talking TERF attention here), and how on Twitter (’cos that’s where the writers congregate) there’s a heap of interaction and interlinking between white trans women. And I’m wondering where all the Indigenous, Black, Blak, Brown trans femme and trans women authors and writers are and why the ones I do know, Claire G. Coleman for example, don’t seem to be interacting or being spoken about in the same sentence much. I mean I think I know why, eh.

Akwaeke Emezi and Zeyn Joukhadar (both trans but not trans femme or trans woman) I somehow place in the same space as Claire. All three have had media attention, but I’m trying to be specific on the dissonance I notice. I see white trans femmes being grouped together, and interacting on Twit and other online media — and likely the algorithms amplifying this, and feel like all the others are somehow isolated or separate. Which is one part of it. The other part is these three write about and live in spirit worlds. I feel that’s very familiar to me, and part of why they appear to me solid, multi-dimensional, in full colour. Part of why I’m drawn to them — even when it’s scary, ’cos just reading of spirit worlds draws attention to me, wakes the spirit worlds I know.

I read Charlie Jane Anders because she’s writing sci-fi and I’ve read her for years since the early days of io9. There were a number of other very high-profile novels published by white trans femmes and trans women last year, which I have no desire to read. I don’t care for the stories being told (and in one case think the story is well dodgy), and don’t feel much affinity at all with the authors. And I’m actually concerned (though not surprised) that whiteness is playing a substantial factor in trans femmes and trans women having any kind of success as writers and authors.

That’s a whole fucking convo there, so I’ll move on.

Becky Chambers I have a relationship to I don’t understand. I don’t think I’m a huge fan, but there’s something about her novels I really enjoy reading. I don’t think too hard beyond that and I keep buying them.

Genevieve Cogman though. I did get a kick out of her Invisible Library series, but The Dark Archive is where I’m stepping off. It was the ending, where the previous Big Bad turned out to be a diminutive bad who might actually be on the good side (I dunno, it was months ago now), and the true(?) Big Bad was revealed. Bait and switch is not a narrative device I enjoy unless there’s a huge amount of prior work to make me care, and six novels in feels way too late for such a plot twist.

Alastair Reynolds’ Inhibitor Phase wrapped up that massive universe (for the moment). He’s one of the two or three white cis dudes writing sci-fi I’ll read. It’s mainly because his space opera is so fucking epic. This one has a heap of his delicious weirdness he let loose in the Revenger trilogy, and being Reynolds, of course any celebration is swept away by the whole galaxy getting shafted a few hundred years after the end of this story.

Zeyn Joukhadar. If I was in my old days where I’d write a post per book and spew out hundreds of words, Zeyn would get extra. The Thirty Days of Night and The Map of Salt and Stars are my favourites of the year — and would be Books of the Year if I still did that — for personal reasons as well as he simply writes beautiful stories. And he’s queer and trans and Muslim and Arab, so duh highly unlikely I wouldn’t rate him.

Sliding from fiction to non-fiction, Massoud Hayoun’s When We Were Arabs covers some of the same ground as Zeyn Joukhadar, and reminded me of my father’s family, as well as a couple of moments which caused me to look very side eye at them and what ‘Turkish’ really means. Which is another stitch in the long, slow unravelling of family from that single sentence uttered over a decade ago, “That’s why your grandmother couldn’t stay, because the kitchen was not halal.”

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s As We Have Always Done comes from near the land I was born on and is probably the single most important book I read last year or last several years. Unlike a lot of the heavy politics I read, in books, in articles, on social networks, Simpson also describes ways out of the shithole mess colonialism and white supremacy have caused. I raved to everyone (pandemic everyone, that’s about 5 people) about this book more than once. That kind of book.

Audra Simpson’s Mohawk Interruptus, slightly further east from the other Simpson, I’m still reading. It’s one that got — haw haw — interrupted by other books. It’s one that I need to have the right attention for. Reading this together with the other Simpson is good, strong words.

Geraldine Heng’s The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages is another I’ve raved to everyone about. And I was reading it in 2020, slow reader, me. I’m including it here again because … because it’s probably my non-fiction Book of the Year, over As We Have Always Done, which is a tough call. Settlers and Europeans need to know the history which led to colonialism, white supremacy, invasion, genocide, ongoing occupation of stolen land (as well as cisgender heteronormative supremacy as both a tool of those above systems and actions, and conversely a separate system and action which used those above as tools, a kind of reciprocal system of shit, but that’s not so much a topic for this book). They need to know the long, deep roots of these systems which go back most of the last two thousand years — not as ‘proto-racism’ or ‘not really racism, more like xenophobia’ or whatever, but as actual, recognisable, functioning racism. Racism at encompassing and conscious institutional, political, religious, community levels, and at individual levels. Knowing better how this emerged and evolved in the European Middle Ages makes it possible to understand more clearly Renaissance, Enlightenment, Industrial, and 20th / 21st century colonialism and racism. And that in turn makes it possible for non-Indigenous people to read Simpson and understand deeply what she’s saying and what’s required.

A bit of astronomy and space science now. And racism. Shit’s inescapable like that.

Ray and Cilla Norris’ Emu Dreaming: An Introduction to Australian Aboriginal Astronomy is really an intro, more of a pamphlet I was reading to educate myself on Indigenous astronomy which turns up a lot in my novels. And you’d be surprised at how much has been written on the subject. And by ‘surprised’ I mean not at all, and by ‘much’ I mean really fuck all, and the stuff that has is either paywalled academic papers or insanely expensive academic books.

Ronald Greeley’s Introduction to Planetary Geomorphology turned out also to be very Intro and missing all the fun of the 2015 New Horizons Pluto flyby. I love me all things space science though, so I keep buying these books.

Chanda Prescod Weinstein’s The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, & Dreams Deferred, is the one speaking about racism. Growing up Black and Jewish in East LA, going to Harvard, being queer and agender, these oppressions and marginalisations are inextricable. In my early-teens, I wanted to be an astronomer. Being a young, queer multiethnic trans femme back then — and so many of those words, their meanings, and how they were lived were not available back then — meant I failed out and dropped out of school way before that desire had a chance to bloom. Still love the stars though; still sad fuckall has changed in all the decades since.

What else?

I’m grouping these together: Tiffany M. Florvil’s Mobilizing Black Germany, Priyamvada Gopal’s Insurgent Empire, Johny Pitts’s Afropean, Asim Qureshi’s (ed.) I Refuse To Condemn. I haven’t finished any of these and at least one I’m unlikely to finish. They’re all important books. I really want to be enthusiastic about reading them. I’m just struggling with reading heavy shit (and there’s no way this stuff is not heavy) after two years of a fucking appallingly politicised and mismanaged pandemic response.

I’d almost put Adonia Lugo’s Bicycle / Race in with those. Maybe because I’ve been involved with racism and transphobia in professional / competitive cycling, as well a being very opinionated about bikes, walking, and public transport as the primary method of getting around in cities, and the need to massively reduce if not outright ban private cars and vehicles (yeah, I’m a devout hoon who loves the smell of hot engines and the sound of a redlining engine and I said that), I read this with hope and a bit of joy. I would absolutely do lazy laps of a city with Adonia.

And then there’s a few others I’m not going to mention, but the covers are below. All kinds of feelings and thoughts about all of them. This is already 2000 words and I needed to stop long before now.

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💉3️⃣🦠0️⃣

’Cos I’m not a selfish coward. ’Cos it is possible in this country, thanks to science and vaccine apartheid, to get vaccinated at all.

Heaps big thank you to everyone at Corona-Impfzentrum Flughafen Tegel who made the whole process of having some mRNA stuck in my deltoid for the third time simple and routine and slightly less bureaucratic than the previous times. And again, especially to all the Brown and Black staff, young and old, who are still stepping up to do this job and were cheerful and helpful all the way through — even when you were bored and tired in the grotty cold outside. I see you. I wish Berlin was you all the time.

I wish also I could get a no questions asked jab at my local supermarket, and get free take-home rapid tests, and that all the information was easy to find in multiple languages on a single, specific website, and the drug companies said fuck it to ‘intellectual property’ and ‘patents’ and to making almost 100 million each and every day off this pandemic — but we all saw how they did the same with HIV/AIDS meds for the last decades, which is part why we’re in this shit, and politics means no government is going to force them to say fuck it, and I wish we had much much much better government ’cos pigeons making random decisions would do a better job, and I wish vaccination was mandatory like for polio and all the other stuff, and I wish very hard all the cunts ‘protesting’ about their ‘loss of freedom’ would choke to death on each other’s flaccid white dicks, and I wish I remembered everything else I want to wish for, but I’m fucking sick and fucking tired and my sick and tired is fucking sick and fucking tired.

Swear to God if you’re someone I know and I find out you ‘chose’ to not get vaccinated when you could, I will knife you.

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There have been too few works written about the va…

There have been too few works written about the value of service work and of housework in particular. […] Yet there are few feminist studies that examine the extent to which well-done housework contributes to individual well-being, promotes the development of aesthetics, or aids in the reduction of stress. By learning housework, children and adults accept responsibility for ordering their material reality. They learn to appreciate and care for their surroundings. Since so many male children are not taught housework, they grow to maturity with no respect for their environment and often lack the know-how to take care of themselves and their households. They have been allowed to cultivate an unnecessary dependence on women in their domestic lives, and, as a result of this dependence are sometimes unable to develop a healthy sense of autonomy. Girl children, though usually compelled to do housework, are usually taught to see it as demeaning and degrading. These attitudes lead them to hate doing housework and deprive them of the personal satisfaction that they could feel as they accomplish these necessary tasks. They grow to maturity with the attitude that most work, not just housework, is drudgery, and spent their time fantasizing about lives in which they do not do work, especially service work. Were they taught to value housework, they might approach all work differently. They might see work as an affirmation of one’s identity rather than a negation.

Feminist Theory: from margin to center. Ch 7. Rethinking the Nature of Work p. 104, bell hooks

bell hooks has been around since my early- / mid-teens first contact with feminism. I didn't pay much attention to her at first, not seeing how she was relevant. That's the smallness and limits of my upbringing showing there. A while later, in the noise of Paris is Burning touring the world's film festivals while the stars struggled to make rent, hooks had opinions on Venus Extravaganza that were disappointingly and unsurprisingly 2nd Wave. There was a long gap before I read her again, though she was always around. In 2013, a few months after I re-read Feminist Theory: from margin to center she hung out with Janet Mock and read her autobiography; in 2014 she had a dialogue with Laverne Cox at The New School. I felt she was someone from that generation who'd put it together a little better, and if Janet and Laverne and all the other Black trans femmes could be in the same room as her and share their love for her, I could move on from her remarks 20 years previously. We all gotta be allowed to grow a little. (But that doesn't give her a pass to come for Beyoncé.)

bell hooks passed over to Ancestor space earlier today.

The first thing I thought of was her writing on domestic work in Feminist Theory. I've quoted her (and often Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak on the same subject at the same time) to probably everyone I know if we ever had a conversation about housework. The quote continues after this, and like a lot of her writing I thought it became dogmatic and made some improbable conjectures. But that's bell hooks. She was this brilliant, Black feminist theorist who understood why housework was so important, who was loved by Janet and Laverne and Raquel Wells and so many Black trans femmes and mascs, and in turn worked to earn their respect and love, and whose opinions over the years, from Paris is Burning to Beyoncé were occasionally of a different era and different feminism and occasionally shite.

I love doing housework, cooking and cleaning, and while I'm on my knees mopping the floor feeling like it's not at all demeaning or degrading or drudgery, I'm thinking, "Yeah, doing aesthetics here, care for self and the world, it's beauty and it's got value," and bell hooks is nodding going, "Yes, child, affirmation of your identity coming through strong."

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1er Paris–Roubaix Femmes

It’s autumn and that means cyclocross! Bashing around Belgian farmland in the rain and mud and sand and snow in generally shite, “Why the fuck would you?” conditions.

And!

Paris fucking Roubaix!

In autumn! Thanks, incredibly poorly managed and politicised pandemic response and incredibly selfish wankers.

Outside of cyclocross, it’s probably my favourite race? First equal with Strade Bianche Rosa, especially when it’s raining. Anything cobbles and / or hosed with mud is my safe space.

And this year, for the first time in the 118 races since 1896 when it was first run, there’s a women’s race! Fucking progress right there, eh! And it was raining buckets and blowing a gale and those 29km of cobbles were muddy and grotty and slippery and terrifying and the riders hurled themselves over them, crashed, got up, did it again. Best 3 hours on a Saturday arvo in a looooong time.

Yaaah, but. The ASO, who organised this, have had an equally long time to pull their white dude fingers out and make it happen. They didn’t. They run the biggest stage races in the world including Tour de France, Vuelta a España, as well as a heap of those hardcore one day races like Liège–Bastogne–Liège and La Flèche Wallonne. Their equivalent women’s races to those big tours are 1-day patronising yawns.

Could they come up with the same 91,000€ prize money for women’s winner as the men’s? How about 7,005€? What about smashing the 5-star cobbles of Trouée d’Arenberg? The women started just next door in Denian. Also nah. Superficially the ASO had valid reasons. Normally the men have done 100km of riding and a bunch of cobbles before barrelling at 60+km/h into the trench, which ‘sorts the peloton out a bit’. Obviously modifying the women’s course so they had some cobbles first was beyond everyone’s capabilities.

And then there’s the M-word. Paris-Roubaix is a Monument. That means it’s one of the five, 250+km 1-day races. It’s also one of the four Cobbled Classics, which are similar lengths plus, obviously, cobbles. The women’s Paris-Roubaix was a quick 115.6km, done and dusted (or jet-washed if you’re Sarah Roy) in 3 hours. None of that 6 hours in the saddle stuff for whatever the ASO thinks women riders are. It’s like back when teh menz thought that if women ran a marathon their uteruses would fall out or something.

And finally (not really but I wanna watch Legends of Tomorrow), there’s the live coverage. Or absence of the first 60km or so. Which is pretty typical. The EWS Enduro World Series this year reliably missed getting the women’s runs because “something something crew hadn’t set up something,” and that’s the top-level competition. There are more men’s races and more actual racing time shown with live or delayed coverage. The stories men tell about men racing are nuanced and full of drama and emotion and narrative arcs and character growth and are accompanied with equally dramatic images and video. Men simply care more about other men. And yes, those men, they are white.

Yah anyway, here’s Sarah Roy shredding on those cobbles.

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Ugh Do I Have To?

Twit wants me to know that 13 years ago, on September 12th, I signed up. Happy 13 dumpster fire years.

Well hazy on the details now, but I think I signed up because China banned Blogger / Blogspot / Google, all the China bloggers mass-migrated to Twitter and it was the only way to stay up with them. A couple of years later China banned Twit too.

I logged-on last night for the first time in a couple of years for actual timeline scrolling (OKCupid had shown me enough white cishet couples and TERFs for one night). I love the people who I actively follow, as in go to their profile, read and scroll, and love the communities around them.

But but but. The place fucks majorly with my mental and emotional stability — as do all social networks. It reminds me of addiction and compulsive habits and wakes those again in me. And it’s full, full of nazis and TERFs and fascists and racists and white supremacists and swarming bot networks run by the same. And the people who own and run it are functionally indistinguishable from that, their actions leading from hate crimes to genocide.

I wish there was something else. And more than that I wish all the people I love who use social networks would understand their culpability and find ways of creating and participating in online communities not bound to necrocapitalist corporations. I can’t see that happening though.

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It’s Rasse, Not Hautfarbe

I feel like the inability of white Germans to say the Race word is probably why the rest of us don’t want to talk to them about racism.

What you on about?

Reni Eddo-Lodge’s 2017 book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race got translated into German in 2019 as Warum ich nicht länger mit Weißen über Hautfarbe spreche. ‘Race’ mysteriously becoming ‘Hautfarbe’, skin colour. When I first saw this (like 2-ish years ago, when it was first translated), a friend said Rasse sounds very strong and would turn people off from reading it. Apparently because white Germans associate the word ‘race’ with Nazis. I strained a muscle side-eyeing at that.

I’m not aware of the full convo she had in Berlin in 2019 when asked about this, beyond her saying she was ok with the translation because she wouldn’t want to be associated with Nazis through the German word, and the audience being dissatisfied with the title. Which again, to my mind, plays into caring for white Germans feelings over the very long, multigenerational history of BIPoC Germans and specifically Afrodeutsche and Turkish-, Kurdish-, Arab-Germans who have to suck up white Germans discomfort with facing race and their own racism. And not even mentioning Jewish-Germans there ’cos we all know how white Germans’ discomfort played out there.

When I titled this, “It’s Rasse, Not Hautfarbe” I mean the title of the book. And yes, it’s also about skin colour, and a bunch of other things that combine in various shiteful ways. Just that when race becomes specifically defined as and reduced to skin colour what that in fact means is ‘skin colour which is not white, or perceived as not belonging to a white person‘.

The dead staunch Nadine Chemali said, “Tell anyone in Australia you’re an arab or wear a hijab down any suburban area and tell me we are white.” while talking about this, a conversation that’s been had in Australia for a long time now. It feels to me that this inability to say ‘race’ in Germany, in conjunction with redefining skin colour as race, pushes that whole conversation of pale-as-fuck and what it means to be ‘white-passing/appearing and not white’ far down the line. They’re digging a deep hole out of which we’re going to lose another generation of time to because white Germans refuse to learn from people who aren’t white.

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It’s Been A While

I started on pills in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa (Auckland, New Zealand) way back when I was a young thing. A daily combo and I did not enjoy swallowing them. In Naarm (Melbourne) my best ever doctor gave me the choice of pills or injections. I knew about injections but didn’t think they were available and was very immediate unequivocal yes on them. First shot in my arse in my upstairs room in a flat in Carlton.

I did injections all the way through VCA, and all the way till I came back from some overseas trip in maybe 2005. They were perfect for those long travels, the same doctor — or when he left, his replacement — would give me a 6–9 month prescription of them and I’d bundle them up with the needles and syringes, taking up hardly any space. And I never had to use the letter they provided for if I got questioned in Customs about all those drugs.

Returning to Australia with a half-year supply remaining, I found that injections were no longer available. Which had sent the entire trans (-gender, -women, I forget what we were called back then) community into a spin. And six months later I joined that spin. I went on multiple different pills which had random unenjoyable side-effects — despite my doctors assuring me they were “all the same”. And then I moved to Kaurna Land (Adelaide) and because of differing State legislations I had to face the gatekeeping of the Gender Clinic for the third time.

Back in time a moment. Immediately prior to seeing the doctors in both Auckland and Melbourne, I’d tried to get into the Gender Clinics, only to be very stringently denied. Stories for another time. What’s pertinent though is both doctors I saw who did prescribe me hormones either wobbled the interpretation of the law or lol fuckit toppled the cunt. Both were very much of the harm reduction school. Not so lucky in Radelaide. Where the skeevy predatorial extremely conservative and heteronormative old codger and his matching twin old cunt presided (fun story, they still do).

I could have just got a flight back to Melbourne to score a repeat script (with what money, exactly?), but decided I wanted to attempt the surgery route again. And endured some pretty fucking humiliating humiliation at those two’s hands. Which also eventually got me an official hormone prescription for the first time in my life. More manky pills which semi-worked along with manky side-effects, in a city which, at that time, had effectively no trans healthcare. Though I did find probably the one good doctor (who I took out for a night at SO36 when he came to Berlin).

And then Berlin. Also astoundingly lacking in trans healthcare. I mean it does exist, but primarily for white trans men and mascs, and the same tired cis-het-normative expectations. I went through so many truly awful GPs (what gets called Hausarzt), and endocrinologists to get similarly truly shite pills which were slowly fucking my liver. Because pills work by overloading your liver which otherwise filters out all the hormones ’cos that’s what livers do (or at least that’s how I remember my good doctors describing it). Which left me constantly tired on top of the fun rando, life-long other hormone problems I’d had.

This is turning into a long story, innit?

Finally, I accidentally found a good endo. A young white German man who talksveryfastallatonce and is actually kinda educated about trans stuff — and from all the above I’m pretty fucking qualified to make that assessment — and actually cares and takes an interest in his patients (i.e. me) as a person and not just a recipient of a prescription. And I should mention since being in Berlin, my ‘official’ status as ‘transsexual’ (yup, 20 years behind on terminology here) is very conditional and there’s a lot of goodwill on the part of doctors to prescribe hormones to me because I don’t actually have the paperwork or proof I did two years of therapy (’cos I didn’t) with those sign-off letters from gatekeepers. All very tenuous, and as much as the world is moving towards an informed consent model the reality remains very much ‘fucking lucky to get them’ when it comes to hormones or anything else transsexual.

So, he prescribed me gel, which I describe as, “getting jizzed on your arse and then you gotta rub it in.” Which I’ve been on for most of a decade after he talked me into trying it ’cos I was really, truly jack of pills fucking with me and not in a great place, and having some actually proper serious repercussions from those life-long hormone problems (also another story, and no, you TERFy cis cunts not caused by taking hormones). And which, along with surgery back in May ’09, has given me a fairly stable, acceptable several years on meds.

But I still miss injections.

Because they’re one and done, once a week, quick and easy, no mess no jizz, I felt better on them, don’t fuck my liver, and are by far the best route to get hormones into me. And for the majority of the last 15 years haven’t been available (unless you’re in Mexico or the US or some other random countries). Until a young trans woman I met here told me she was on them. Which was a fucking eye-opener.

And she gave me the name of them and where she got them from, which I asked my endo about and he was kinda suss about it, ’cos he thinks the curve with injections (peaking then trailing off) is not desirable and favours the flat dose of daily gel, and thinks I’m a weirdo for wanting the former. Nonetheless, he gave me a prescription, which isn’t covered by health insurance, and I went to my local Apotheke and was told, “Yaaah, around 25€ and might take 40 days?” and got a phone call 2 days later, and here we are. Thanks rando pharmaceutical company in Czech Republic!

Which is me wondering what the correct dose would be after all these years. ’Cos my endo doesn’t know, I can’t remember the strength of the injections I used to take, comparing it with jizz gel isn’t a direct one-to-one, I have no long-term medical history ’cos I’ve moved so many times and so have my doctors, trans healthcare is an actual fucking trash heap on fire, and I find myself on rando internet forums trying to scrape through DIY hormone convos by people who very much are not doctors or endos. And there’s whole conversations to be had around how we, as trans femmes, trans women, transsexuals, whatever the fuck we’re getting called this year, are resorting to buying hormones from non-medical suppliers like other trans women who started making it themselves and now sell it (just to clarify, this isn’t what I’m taking). And that if we want actual, up-to-date information, we have to look to those same trans women and assemble something meaningful out of our decades of collective experience. Which is not to throw shade on them or the hormones they’re making or our collective knowledge. We do this because we’re denied real, affordable, accessible healthcare. Because we’re ultimately still seen as mentally ill in the head fucking trannys.

So finally I have injections again, and because I don’t trust anyone, let alone white German healthcare and the white German government (come on, the potential Merkel replacement let the n-word slip out her mouth, this is where this country is at), I’m thinking that getting a stockpile first is good Auntie planning.

Funny story though, I forgot to ask for needles?

Inadvertently Winning

I won the Zwift women’s NYC sprint jersey the other day.

Bunch of words there. Zwift is the online virtual environment I train on my bike and smart trainer in; NYC is the Zwift world which has multiple routes to ride in Central Park; and the sprint jersey is a rolling leaderboard of fastest sprint, retained until someone rides faster or for a maximum length of one hour, when it’s passed on to whoever is next down the list.

So, first ride post-vaccine and feeling kinda low-level chronic fatigue-y and not wanting to abuse myself on a proper training ride and nonetheless going a little too hard on a free ride ’cos I have no modulation, I hit a downhill slope and want to make some speed. Which leads into the sprint. And I’m in the wrong gear and all of the above and because I’m an aggressively competitive cunt when it’s time to compete I want to at least put down a not shameful time. Wrong gear and feeling grotty and on a cyclocross bike but I can still spin 130+ rpm which means lots of Watts and I cross the finish line looking at my time going, “Yeah, coulda been worse,” and then “Why the fuck is my jersey green?”

It’s green ’cos the woman in second place was 1/10th of a second slower.

I’ve written before about how I avoid competing with other (cis) women because of (trans) reasons. The last years this has become much more of a mainstream spectacle with a variety of intersecting fuckeries including: Republicans trying to legislate trans girls out of sports and bathrooms; cis women athletes like Caster Semenya, Christine Mboma, Beatrice Masilingi all banned from the Olympics because regulations around women and testosterone levels, which ‘coincidentally’ seem to hit Black women; cis women like JK Rowling and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie using their massive social media following to target trans women; more legislation in the UK effectively barring access to puberty blockers for trans children. Those are the ones I can remember this morning, and because I’m talking about sport and competing here, I’m not including the almost daily murder of trans women who are disproportionately Black, Brown, Indigenous, migrants and reliably doing the only work open to us: sex work. And not the nice, sanitised, white cis women doing pole dancing classes or queer AFAB porn type of sex work either.

When I won that jersey — and let’s be clear, it’s a very minor win — I experienced the unique duality all us women — cis and trans — know, us who are made illegitimate by this legislation and the generations-long culture of cis feminism (the TERF kind, which is also white feminism and yes, you can be Black or anywhere else in the BIPoC acronym and be a white feminist) colluding with white christian conservative politics. The duality is the visceral joy of winning inseparable from the dead conviction it’s because we’re not really women. And knowing someone’s eventually going to make us winning or even turning up an issue.

I’ve been a dancer for pushing 25 years. The training and experience is inscribed all the way to my bones. It shapes how I think and feel and live, whether I’m dancing or not. I’ve been an athlete for all that time as well, both as a dancer and, at various times, rock climbing and cycling. I train around a dozen hours a week out of habit and love and to prevent myself from falling apart. Like Martyn Ashton said, “You might be physically fit but you won’t be unscathed.” I started cycling to find a way to maintain the physical intensity I need when my knees had been in constant pain for years. I’m not especially good at it, just like climbing or dance I could get to a reasonably high level of proficiency but I’d have never made it as a professional, or the upper levels which get called ‘elite’. I know my capabilities, physiological, mental, emotional, all that, and know so much of being a dancer or athlete is those last two.

But all that counts for shit when I’m a trans woman taking the green jersey off a cis woman.

When that happens, when I even show up like at the Rapha Women’s 100, the advantages I bring from those 25 years of fucking hard work are rendered null and replaced by the supposed genetic, chromosomal, hormonal, skeletal, muscular, physical, cultural, probably spiritual and astral advantages I have because I was assigned male at birth. It doesn’t matter there are cis women who are taller, bigger, stronger and way more hot than me (Hi! Liz Cambage!). It doesn’t matter how early I got on hormones — and it certainly doesn’t matter that having to prove my validity as a woman entails a violation of my privacy and self all the way into my pants and blood. And Caster Semenya knows all about that too.

As much as possible, I’m explicitly ‘out’ on Zwift. There’s no LGBT checkbox, but I do wear the Pride kit, and following the convention of putting additional info in your name, I have ‘[trans femme af]’. This isn’t about Pride or ‘feeling proud’ or about being ‘out’. To those same bones I have no interest in the colonialism upon which these words and concepts created themselves. It’s about making sure there’s visibility and representation (also words which leave me tired). Once the big name trans athletes are accounted for, there’s a massive absence of trans athletes — and dancers. I don’t want to give space to cis people to pretend we don’t exist, aren’t in the room. I do feel an obligation to make sure other trans people — especially BIPoC trans women and femmes — know they’re not the only one in the room. And there’s a long, long conversation about AFAB queer hostility to femininity and athleticism which I don’t have the skin or patience or time for here, but that’s part of it. And the exhausting whiteness of dance and climbing and cycling is another part.

I was talking with Gala yesterday and I joked my motivating force is vengeance.

So here’s how it is: I won that green jersey ’cos I’m a multiethnic trans femme aunty with decades of hard physical experience under my lingerie, who’s highly competitive and capable, who won on an off-day on the wrong bike in the wrong gear and I wasn’t even trying. I’m that fucking good.

And y’know what else? It doesn’t matter. It’s not that big, it doesn’t mean anything. In the moment of competing and winning it’s a rush and we’d do it whether there’s organised, capitalism-based sport or not. After the moment, days, weeks, years later, for the vast majority of us who never made a career out of it and for quite a few who did, it simply doesn’t feature in our lives. It wouldn’t even merit 1200 words if it wasn’t for the reality of being trans or cis women pushing our way in where, on their terms, we aren’t welcome and don’t belong.