Catch up on your TV now. At the start of the month, Channel 4 aired My Trans American Road Trip. What was already a difficult watch became, like everything else, even more difficult this week. In the documentary, transgender reporter Abigail Austen travels around North Carolina to expose the ridiculousness of the state’s ‘bathroom bill’, restricting what toilets transgender people can use on publicly-owned property. Businesses and events have boycotted North Carolina and damaged the economy. Transgender women like Candice have left their jobs because they couldn’t use the right toilet. But money and trans lives don’t matter when this magical law protects children from sexual predators and maintains the ultra-conservative Christian grip on American life that secured Trump’s victory.
Austen’s resilience throughout, meeting bigot after bigot is incredible. Hiding her identity, she meets an evangelical pastor who tells her transgender people are a ‘charade’ and no trans women will ever use the ladies in his church. Moments later, she pisses over his words. These snippets of humour and victory provide the hope amidst the chats that take Austen to breaking point, including the psychoanalysis ‘expert’ who says trans people just need therapy and the home-schooled Texan child prepped to protect bathrooms because ‘you can kind of see who’s transgender and who’s not.’
North Carolina’s bathroom bill might be overturned, following the election of a new State Governor on Tuesday. Yet that small hope is dwarfed by seven other states that are considering a similar bill and undoubtedly the forthcoming Trump presidency. ‘Whatever the outcome of the election’, says Austen in the final scene, ‘we [the transgender community] are not going back.’ And now they need us, all of us, to come along with them.
Just pee where you want to pee….respect xxx pic.twitter.com/sbl3QW5sR6
— Abigail Austen (@AbigailAusten) November 2, 2016
Also this week I went to Let’s Talk About Gay Sex and Drugs, a monthly forum hosted by Patrick Crash and sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street, mixing featured speakers with an open mic. This month’s theme was faith, so obviously a draw to me. Line of the night went to Rev Simon Buckley, Rector of St Anne’s Church in Soho: ‘I don’t understand ‘straight acting’. Is that when you pretend you don’t like it?’ Amongst those sharing and extract from Cabaret, poems, short stories and their stories, a Radical Faerie praised the queer ‘heart space’ the night creates that is the base of spirituality. In his recent book, Matthew Todd advocates for inclusive LGBTQ community centres in our cities where nights like this can happen. The evening is inclusive but only if you can get down the stairs (it’s hosted for free by Ku Bar in their basement), a problem of funding and accessibility that is a challenge Cash and the Let’s Talk community knows needs solving.
And last night I volunteered at Diversity Role Models‘ Gala Dinner at the Waldorf Hotel. Founder and departing Chief Executive Suran Dickson invited us all to make sure DRM’s anti-LGBT bullying work grows, so that Britain can be a leading role model to a world where misinformation and bigotry are putting LGBT rights at risk. Patron and host for the night Clare Balding was first on the dancefloor when the beautiful Alison Moyet performed. It was an absolute privilege to appreciate Moyet’s music for the first time amidst the fans who’ve been there since her 80s debut. Of course they knew and loved every single word.
— Clare Balding (@clarebalding) November 11, 2016
Next week I’ll be reviewing Queer: A Graphic History