On day 3 of Blogmas, I take a step back in time to move on to a better future. I promise it will make sense when you read it, so with that in mind let’s journey back a Sunday in mid October and the final day of this year’s SNP conference
Featured Picture Me (Gayle) and Bemis spokesman, and fellow Celtic Connections regular Danny Boyle at the SNP Equalities Conference October 2016.
Picture (1) The Picture Shows The Headline So I Can Tell The Story
A couple of months ago on a calm autumn Sunday I attended, the SNP equalities conference. It was a very enjoyable day where I listened to a variety of speeches from a number of contributors both from within the party and from spokespeople representing a range of campaign groups who are united in their aim in fighting for a fairer more inclusive Scotland so why you may ask did I wait till now before talking about it.
Well there is a simple and honest explanation namely that this was a day when I learned not only about campaigns and causes it was a day I learned about myself and what I learned and will reveal on this international day of disabled people will shock and even anger some people but as someone who is both a disabled person and a transsexual woman I have no hesitation in saying that given the choice to identify as disabled or trans I would choose trans and I would do it every single time.
Now before some disabled people completely lose the plot let me say that having to make choices of identifying with one part of me over another part of me is something I should never have to do. As someone who worked as a disability equality trainer I recognise the value of a united equality movement working together to achieve a better society for our people.By this I mean a society that values everyone whether it be Women, People From Black And Minority Ethnic Communities, Disabled people, Trans people and values them equally
This however is I regret to say not the case at the moment and on this particular day the disabled members forum was meeting at the same time as the LGBT members forum and superwoman though I try to be even I can’t be in two places at once. So on the grounds everyone who was at the disabled people’s conference was a disabled person but that trans people and especially trans woman are underrepresented in politics I thought it was important that my voice was heard at the LGBT conference which was excellently hosted by Kirsty McAlpine and the Right Honourable Stewart MacDonald MP see picture below.
Picture 2 Stewart MacDonald MP gives his opening address to SNP LGBT members conference with Kirsty McAlpine looking on
Taken in isolation one might think I am saying to declare as trans rather than disabled was a spur of the moment decision relevant only on the day of the conference but believe me this is not the case. So why do I think that my trans identity for all the difficulties trans people face is more positive than identifying as disabled person? Well I’ll tell you why it all comes down to preconceived assumptions which in turn lead to stereotypes which have an impact on wider society. In other words, it really is in the words of Robert Burns about seeing ourselves as others see us.
You see as a trans woman though I may experience some transphobic abuse as I go about my daily business I believe I still have a far better quality of life than I would if I identified only as a disabled person. Now I realise this isn’t fair and for some people it will make very uncomfortable reading but facts are facts and can’t be changed just because some people don’t like them. You see the truth of the matter is that disabled people are unfairly viewed as a burden on society.
This view has always been a popular myth within society but it to has to be said that aided and abetted by the right wing Conservative press it has increased dramatically since the climate of austerity become the accepted norm in UK politics after the 2010 General Election. The idea that that somehow disabled people are on the make and are making false claims on the benefit system has to a large extent gone unchallenged by the UK political mainstream as with help from their friends in a compliant media they have established this discourse as part of a national narrative which seeks to demonise anyone who is viewed as in any way different.
Be under no illusion it is fair to say that trans people are to a significant extent also viewed as other. In spite of this and the fact that we do experience a degree of hostility from some of our less enlightened members of society I honestly believe that disabled people get far worse treatment than the trans community in early 21st Century Britain.
It seems there is hardly a day goes by without politically motivated story appearing in the less erudite sections of the tabloid press labelling disabled people as lazy, workshy, benefit cheating, scroungers who aren’t really disabled but who are in it to milk the system.
This is hysteria, pure and simple and yet the British government have the nerve to wonder why more disabled people than ever before are being targeted by hate squads and many are choosing to end their own lives rather than take this daily torrent of abuse from those who are too narrow minded to see they are being played by a Westminster elite who would sooner spend billions on weapons of mass destruction than creating the conditions for genuine equality.
So why are disabled people the new acceptable scapegoats which allows them to be treated in ways which if it were a BME citizen we would be screaming racism or a woman we’d be shouting misogyny. Personally I believe it’s all about perception and disabled people are still perceived by some people as being less able than they are even when the facts don’t support this line of thinking. Many less intellectually able members of our society believe that disabled people are weak, and possibly even stupid and they believe this line of argument without anything to back it up except for the pre historic opinion that physical strength equals intelligence. Surely if this was the case then I as the first disabled person in my family would not have been the first university graduate but I was.
It does however have to be said that in spite of many examples which disprove this outdated theory it is a popular myth which has been around for hundreds of years and has been carefully socially and culturally constructed over time to find a place in the national pysche. This attitude annoying though it is will not evaporate overnight and even now we are seeing disabled people being pitied and patronised rather than treated as equal citizens and it with this last comment you can begin to see why I would sooner identify as trans than as a disabled person.
Speaking from the heart and as a trans woman, (trans men can speak for themselves ) I will explain why I take what some would see as a challenging stance on this issue. For me my justification for this viewpoint is that it really is all about equality. You see as a trans woman I am never even on my most difficult days told what clothes I can wear, where I can travel or socialise or what time I can get up or go to bed. Yet the basic right to make these and other choices are denied to disabled people. This to me is obscene and though being trans is not without it’s problems as I know only too well I say again what I’ve said throughout this post which is until Santa delivers real equality for all I would sooner wear pink than be pitied or to put it in even more brutal terms I would sooner declare as a trans woman than I would as a disabled person
Love And Best Wishes