Following Annette Pryce’s article on Julie Bindel’s controversial LGBT History Month appearance, guest writer Sam Hope gives a trans perspective on the matter.
I’m in an abusive relationship with Julie Bindel and I can’t escape. An abusive relationship in the multi-media world of the 21st Century does not need to have romantic or sexual connotations.
I come from an abusive family, I’ve worked for years with abuse survivors, I have an MA in Trauma Studies that focused on the consequences of abuse. I know what abuse looks like and feels like. It looks like this.
The cycle is familiar by now. It begins with Bindel and her enablers organising a talk that they know will have a negative impact on a minority – often that minority is trans people, as this seems to be her special interest, and I will focus on this, although her attitudes to sex work, bisexuality, mental health and Islam are equally questionable.
Her stated aim is to cast doubt on the validity of trans identities, which is appalling in itself, especially given the weight of scientific evidence and historical record that supports our identities. But her covert but equally apparent aim is even more pernicious – to whip up a storm that she can then claim to be a victim of, through which she achieves personal gain.
It is a sad fact that one abuse tactic is to make yourself look like your victim’s victim. Bindel excels at this. In her latest escapade, we find Bindel imposing herself on a space that should be inclusive of bi and trans people, as she is scheduled to give an LGBT History Month talk. It’s not enough for her to bring her afab lesbian separatism to afab lesbian separatist spaces, she has to push herself on LGBTQ+ spaces she doesn’t believe should even exist.
I know what abuse looks like and feels like. It looks like this.
Of course, this is pure provocation and of course, she knows it. Naturally, people will be frightened, upset. This will embolden biphobic and transphobic people and lend power to their discourse.
My Facebook feed is full of trans friends hurt and agonising over what to do. Ignoring her feels like being assaulted and pretending it isn’t happening, although my policy has long been to try and ignore people like Bindel and not be a pawn in their nasty game. I wrote about this when she came to my town two years ago and my position has not changed. Fighting back will bring the focus onto us and we as a community will be on trial for what any one of us does and says next. And with this much hurt and anger, somebody somewhere is bound to misfire.
This is another abuser trick – torment someone until they snap and then calmly tell the world “look how mad and bad this person is”.
Yes, we are traumatised
Bindel says we cannot be traumatised by her, but we can and we are. I have seen it and felt it. My heart rate goes up when Bindel’s name is mentioned. My body tenses. I lose sleep. I have intrusive thoughts about the verbal abuse I’ve experienced from her friends and enablers in relation to previous events. I have internalised Bindel’s own cruel words and they continue to taunt me even in her absence. Most of all, I feel something is being forced onto me and that I am powerless and voiceless.
I can speak out through a blog but I know my words will be drowned out because her audience is so much bigger and we are such a tiny community. Her lies have greater reach than our truth, and have the ring of veracity to people who know little about us and haven’t done their reading.
Fortunately, the law now recognises the existence of emotional abuse, and I hope it’s only a matter of time until we recognise that the internet is not some magical place where words don’t hurt. Emotional abuse is real. Bullying is real. Harassment is real. Harassment is coming into a space that has ‘T’ in it whilst being a very persistent and prolific campaigner against trans civil rights and the very idea of ‘LGBT’.
I have internalised Bindel’s own cruel words and they continue to taunt me even in her absence.
Another abuser trick is to spin what’s happening with a manipulative rhetoric. It’s easy to choose your words carefully and be charming when you’re not really the one under fire, of course. Abusers talk about people ‘taking offence’ as some very cerebral and quite academic response to their abusive words. This sanitises the process and denies its real impact. MRAs will say this about survivors who are traumatised by rape jokes, that they are needlessly offended. When someone is emboldened to say something they absolutely know will chip away at another person’s safety or social inclusion, or their very sense of self, spinning their trauma-related reactions as ‘offence’ is just so much newspeak.