Unexpected Consequences

Writing is hard.

Partly because my fibromyalgia steals the physical energy to type and makes typing physically painful. Partly because the tiredness makes my brain struggle to form sentences and paragraphs.

Mainly though?
The problem is that I’m afraid of my laptop.
I associate my laptop and typing with the DWP.

It’s not even the same laptop.
It’s over a year since I’ve had to type up answers to an invasive disability benefits form.

But the association between typing, laptops and the terror and humiliation of dealing with the DWP is still there, It’s still strong.
And it keeps me away from writing.

I’m a writer and I need to be able to get past this fear – my fanfiction, original fiction, poetry and blog posts won’t write themselves. And they can’t be written on my phone – I’ve already had problems with repetitive strain injuries in my thumbs from tweeting.
And I can’t write by hand – fibromyalgia has made that all but impossible.

I don’t really have a clear conclusion or purpose to this post. I’m just upset because I can see how and why I’ve developed a panic response to using my laptop and it’s just so unfair.

Like so many others, I have a fear now of brown envelopes, of phone calls, of Job Centres… I hyperventilate if I hear the music the DWP uses as hold music on their phone line and I’ve just sat never to people calling them for me, I’ve never called them myself.
Yes this is all because I’m mentally ill and traumatised and was before the DWP became part of my life – but it’s also because they are actively hostile, abusive, callous, gaslighting and traumatising. They ruin people’s lives and health and they don’t care because they just want to deny people the money they need to live.

And that’s why I’m struggling to write. The DWP made me afraid of typing.

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Anger

It’s been a while since my last post “Shame” and I wish I could say that everything is now fine. But I can’t, it’s not and my shame is still there and still hard and it’s christalising into anger.

I was brave and I asked to be referred to Wheelchair Services because my wheelchair isn’t suitable for the amount of use I need it for – it’s a day trip wheelchair not an every day wheelchair. I explained to a doctor that I’m rapidly losing the ability to use my legs – I can’t stand unaided, I can’t stand or walk for very long or very far and my legs get exhausted easily. I can’t walk to the shop – but I can wheel that distance. I can’t stand and chat with stall holders at the market but I can sit in my chair and then wheel myself to another stall. My arms still work okay – not as well as a healthy person’s arms but well enough to use to get me places. I just need a lighter, properly fitted, properly set up chair. One with the back wheels set further forwards, with no armrests, with a rigid frame and air-filled tires – a chair designed for someone who needs to use it all the time.
A chair that would allow me to leave the house without my boyfriend.

The doctor wasn’t interested in why my legs are losing apparent strength, why they fatigue so easily, why I find it so suddenly and increasingly difficult to move my legs at all. He actually literally laughed because that’s not explained by my current diagnosis at all.

Then he messed up my wheelchair referral and asked them for a powerchair to use outside only  (which they don’t provide) when I want to be assessed for an active user wheelchair for both outside and inside my house.
So now I have to be brave AGAIN and go back AGAIN to tell another doctor to write me a new referral to get what I need and I still might not get it.

I’m getting my social care reassessed at the moment too as I can’t carry on with agency carers turning up late or never and leaving halfway through calls.
I won’t write much about this process as it’s ongoing and I can’t be sure they don’t read my blog but I ended up in tears and acutely mentally ill after my last meeting with social services after having to justify needing things like “I need freshly prepared food because ready meals could literally kill me and also nobody wants to be forced to rely on ready meals” and “No I won’t let anyone into my house without seeing ID” and “I want to choose people to help me get dressed / wash / go out instead of just hoping I get sent someone compatible”.

And that’s going to eventually sort itself out and I will sooner or later have a good wheelchair that suits my needs. I have to believe it will be sorted but:

The anger.

Everything I need to live an independent and fulfilled life exists. The assistive technologies I need exist. The kind of personal assistants I need exist. Heck, the kind of adaptive housing I might need exists.

And I’m stuck at home, on the sofa in my pjs because other people, who don’t know me, who don’t have to live with the consequences, who are also trying to find the most “cost-effective” solution get to decide for me what I can have.

My body isn’t keeping me here.
My body isn’t deciding whether or not to look into the possible causes of these frightening new symptoms, the doctor is.
My body isn’t deciding whether or not I deserve to go outside when I want to, the NHS is.
My body isn’t deciding how clean and fed and safe I should be, social services is.
My body isn’t determining where I can go, what I can do – society is making that decision for me every day with every staircase and every narrow doorway and every unfilled pothole.

The tech to make my life independent exists and I only don’t have it cos I can’t afford it.

I daydream about what my life would be like if I had the things I need – a decent wheelchair, enough wheelchair skills training to be confident out and about, adapted clothing and/or devices that help to put clothes on, a walk-in shower with a seat, a profiling bed, an adapted bike, a wheelchair friendly house to live in, an assistance dog, a PA or two to help me stay organised, regular physiotherapy, regular mental health therapy, AAC apps and visual time table apps to help avoid meltdowns, headphones for outside and a sensory room to retreat to when I need to ground myself…
Even HALF of these would be a massive improvement to my quality of life and maybe I’ll eventually get most of them.
But there’s nothing I can do except continue to beg the health and social care systems for the help I need and no guarantees that I’ll ever get it.

I’m not unique. This is standard. This is how disabled people live in the UK.

Shame

I carry a lot of shame around with me. I suspect a lot of other disabled people do too.

Whenever I’ve tried to talk to someone – especially mental health professionals – about the feelings of shame, they try to dismiss them by straight away pointing out that I have nothing to be ashamed of. I need not be ashamed that I can’t wash and dress myself. It’s okay that I can’t walk. There’s no need to feel bad about being unable to use the bus alone.

And I get that and it’s not like I don’t mostly believe it. I know I’m doing the best that I can in a world built for people with minds and bodies very different from mine, a world designed to exclude me. I know.

But.

The shame is still there.
The frustration of trying to do something that would be simple and quick for (seemingly) anyone else but does not come easily for me. The self-directed upset and anger when, despite trying and despite every adaptation I can get hold of, something is still impossible. Of having to ask others to do things for me when I still feel like I ought to do them myself.

I’m losing abilities I used to have. There are hundreds of things I could do before and I now can’t. I’d sort of got used to the whole before-and-after of the huge crash I experienced five years ago but now I’m noticing the smaller crashes that have happened since. There’s things I can’t do now that I could do last year, last month, last week.
I’m scared and, yes, ashamed.
I don’t like this or want this. Some or all of my recent decline in physical and mental health might be temporary. Or some or all of it might be permanent and I ultimately have no control over which.

I don’t want to feel ashamed. I don’t want to feel scared or angry.
I can talk myself blue about how I’m doing my best, doing actually excellently under circumstances not of my own making. I can point myself toward every possible source of help and adaptation to make my little part of the world as accessible to me as possible. I can say and fully BELIEVE that what my body can and can’t accomplish with and without assistance is morally neutral, neither bad nor good… but the shame is still there and it still hurts.

I have expected for many years that I would become a wheelchair user. Wheels are an increasingly large part of my life now and yet I feel ashamed and scared when I think of asking the NHS to help me get a more suitable wheelchair. Because I feel ashamed of asking, because I feel afraid that I’m maybe not trying hard enough to stay ambulant, because I feel afraid that maybe I’m right to think I can’t keep walking much longer…

I don’t know what this post is about. I have big and scary feelings and I feel alone with them because people (including me, myself) seem to just want to talk me out of them and the feelings remain.

Today I tried to go to the shop. It’s next door to my flat. Getting dressed took over an hour. I came back without several things I meant to get. I forgot to eat any lunch. I couldn’t figure out how to put the shopping away.
I ought not be upset or ashamed about any of this. But I am.

 

Response to the Scottish Consultation on changes to the Gender Recognition Act

Please find the consultation here and fill it in with reference to either this post or my previous post. A lot of transphobic people are going to fill this iin so we need those cis people who actually support us to get in on this.
If you remember nothing else, remember to demand recognition for everyone’s genders based on what each person says themself without anyone else getting to decide for them. EVERYONE includes nonbinary people and children and people who aren’t citizens. Everyone gets charge of their own gender. Everyone.

1. The initial view of Scottish Government is that applicants for legal gender recognition should no longer need to produce medical evidence or evidence that they have lived in their acquired gender for a defined period. The Scottish Government proposes to bring forward legislation to introduce a self-declaratory system for legal gender recognition instead.
Do you agree or disagree with this proposal?

* Agree
Disagree
Don’t know
If you want, you can give reasons for your answer, or make comments.
Yes to self declaration.

NO to fees beyond admin costs. NO to requiring notaries or formal witnesses such as solicitors. An individual person’s word and signature should be enough.

 

2. Should applicants to the proposed gender recognition system in Scotland have to provide a statutory declaration confirming they know what they are doing and intend to live in their acquired gender until death?

Yes
*No
Don’t know
If you want, you can give reasons for your answer or make comments.
Something like a deed poll or a simple form should suffice.
This is NOT more complex or serious than confirming a change in name or address and should be just as easy as updating those records.

3. Should there be a limit on the number of times a person can get legal gender recognition?
Yes
*No
Don’t know
If you want, you can give reasons for your answer or make comments
I’m honestly shocked that Scotland has a limit on name changes. This is really, really obviously a bad idea to the extent that I can’t even form an argument about why it’s wrong to impose an arbitrary limit on the number of times someone can update their birth certificate gender. THERE IS NO PROBLEM OF “FRIVOLOUS” REPEAT CHANGES OF NAME AND GENDER. Not only is the likelihood of frivolous requests vanishingly rare, they are also NOT a problem – anyone who is doing it for a joke will do it once and then change it back shortly after and this will have almost no consequences for anyone. Whereas someone who is really struggling to pin down their identity may get it wrong a few times before they get it right, each time with full sincerity and an arbitary limit of anything less than, say, 100 times is going to risk trapping someone with an unwanted and incorrect identity which is the very thing this Act is supposed to prevent.

 

4. If the Scottish Government takes forward legislation to adopt a self-declaration system for legal gender recognition, should this arrangement be open:
A. only to people whose birth or adoption was registered in Scotland, or who are resident in Scotland?
*B. to everyone?
C. Don’t know

 

5. The Scottish Government proposes that people aged 16 and 17 should be able to apply for and obtain legal recognition of their acquired gender. Do you agree or disagree?
*Agree
Disagree
Don’t know
If you want, you can give reasons for your answer or add comments.
Everyone should have the right to correct documentation regardless of their age or the views of their parents.

 

6. Which of the identified options for children under 16 do you most favour?

Option 1 – do nothing for children under 16
Option 2 – court process
Option 3 – parental application
Option 4 – minimum age of 12
*Option 5 – applications by capable children
None of these options
I would prefer that any child be able to apply on their own behalf without parental consent or involvement being required. I understand the desire to limit this to only some children but honestly it is better that any number of children learn that they will be listened to and taken seriously in this matter through any number of reapplications than that one transgender child have their recognition delayed because of their age or disability or parental objections.

7. Should it be possible to apply for and obtain legal gender recognition without any need for spousal consent?
*Yes
No
Don’t know
If you want, you can give reasons for your answer or add comments.
The Spousal Veto – as the trans community has come to call it – essentially allows a spouse to decide what gender their partner legally is by either giving or witholding consent to the recognition or to divorce. There is already evidence of spouses refusing to either a GRC OR a divorce thus holding their partner in limbo indefinitely. Others have threatened to consent only if the partner gives them more than half of the assets or primary care of any children in a divorce settlement. This is clearly abuse and wouldn’t even be possible without the spousal veto becoming law.

NOBODY should have a say in what another person’s gender is.
Nothing about the marriage has materially changed after a successful recognition of one or both persons’ gender – the same two people are married to each other in what we all are supposed to imagine is an equal marriage . Asking for consent to update incorrect information about gender does not change the contract – unless same sex and opposite sex marriages are not equal in Scotland?

In any case, someone who does not wish to remain married to their partner should divorce them. The extra step of confirming whether or not you planning to remain married to THE SAME PERSON YOU MARRIED once their details are updated before either divorcing them or continuing to be just as married is entirely superfluous and as I outlined above, needlessly cruel.

 

8. Civil partnership is only available to same sex couples. This means that the civil partners cannot remain in their civil partnership if one of them wishes to obtain a full Gender Recognition Certificate.

Should they instead be allowed to remain in their civil partnership? This would mean that a woman and a man would be in the civil partnership.
Yes
No
*Don’t Know
If you want, you can give reasons for your answer or add comments.
I have no strong feelings on the difference between civil partnership and marriage. I would personally be happy to change a CP for a marriage in these circumstances.
However, other people might have strong feelings about their choice to get a CP instead of a marriage and may wish to remain in the institution they chose to join.

9. Should legal gender recognition stop being a ground of divorce or dissolution?
Yes
No
*Don’t Know
If you want, you can give reasons for your answer or add comments.
On one hand, it would send a clear message that transgender people are perfectly okay and not a problem if this stopped being grounds for divorce / dissolution.
On the other hand, waiting 1 to 2 years of living apart to prove an irtrievable breakdown of the marriage is a long time to stay married to someone who doesn’t want to be with you .
It may be outside of the scope of this consultation but No Fault Divorce is urgently needed here.

10. Are any changes to section 22 (prohibition on disclosure of information) necessary?
*Yes
No
Don’t Know

I honestly don’t believe it is necessary to disclose to a third party without consent the gender recognition status or former name(s) of any person in any of those circumstances.
As no one has to my knowledge ever been prosecuted for the crime of revealing this information and I know that this crime is REGULARLY committed, I’m somewhat ambivalent on whether it should remain illegal as it being illegal doesn’t seem to be helping the community so far.
However, it should be considered harrassment to out people as trans whether they are recognised in their gender or not and the trans community needs to be given the knowledge on how to report and fix the constant breaches of data protection and other related crimes that happen to all of us whether we have a GRC or not.

 

11. Should a person who has been recognised in their acquired gender under the law of another jurisdiction be automatically recognised in Scotland without having to make an application?
*Yes
No
Don’t Know
If you want, you can give reasons for your answer or add comments.
YES for all countries and YES this should include people who have a recognised nonbinary identity in another country regardless of whether or not Scotland does the right thing and acknowledges nonbinary people.

12. Should Scotland take action to recognise non-binary people?
*Yes
no
Don’t Know

13. If you answered Yes to Question 12, which of the identified options to give recognition to non-binary people do you support? You can select more than one option.
*Option 1: Changes to administrative forms
Option 2: Book of Non-binary Identity
*Option 3: Limited document changes
*Option 4: Full recognition using proposed self-declaration system
Option 5: Incremental approach
*Option 6: Amendment of the Equality Act 2010
None of the above options
If you want, you can give reasons for your answer, add comments or, if you think none of Options 1 to 6 is suitable, describe your preferred option.
Option 1 you should be doing anyway.
Option 2 is a TERRIBLE idea and should not happen under any circumstances.
Option 3 you should do anyway and consult with the nonbinary community on which of those changes they want done first and fastest.
Option 4, full recognition may be radical but it’s also the ethically right thing to do. If anyone’s gender is legally recognised then EVERYONE should be able to get their gender legally recognised.
Option 6 you should do anyway. People need the protection of the Equality Act, flimsy as it is. Whether or not other countries will recognise nonbinary people whose gender is recognised in Scotland is immaterial. Some country or other will have to step into the 21st century on gender first and it could be Scotland.

MISSED OUT QUESTIONS I DIDN@T ANSWER

16. Do you have any further comments about the review of the Gender Recognition Act 2004?

*Yes
No

GET RID OF THE GENDER RECOGNITION REGISTER. Destroy all the records it holds and make no more records of who has had their gender recognised.
No one on that register is safe while one exists and could be hacked, leaked, “lost on the bus on a CD” or accessed by people who are allowed to access it but do so for corrupt reasons. The trans community is geniunely afraid that a future fascist government could get access to these records and use them to find us and imprison or kill us. We need it gone more than anyone could possibly need for it to exist,

If changing Marriage Laws is at all on the table – and the information provided suggests that it is – many of the problems discussed that could arise from making recognition simpler for all and available to nonbinary people can be easily avoided by defining marriage as between “two people” instead of “between a man and a man or a woman and a woman or a man and a woman” and adding “or two people with nonbinary gender or one such person and a woman or one such person and a man”. Get the references to gender OUT of the legally binding parts of marriage and marriage vows (as we all hoped the UK would do in 2010 and it didn’t) and a whole host of possible problems disappear.

Add methods to switch between “Mother”, “Father”, “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” on your child’s birth or adoption certificate and methods for a child to correct such on their own birth certificate. Or actually REMOVE gendered titles for parents from all forthcoming birth certificates.

https://yetanotherlefty.wordpress.com/2017/09/06/gender-recognition-our-absolutely-non-negotiable-terms/

Gender Recognition: Our Absolutely Non-Negotiable Terms

I know I’ve talked about Gender Recognition before. And I know I’ve promised to write about my research that recently shows that I, along with hundreds of other UK based adults, essentially CANNOT GET MARRIED but I’m still dealing with my own emotional response to being told I either have to be okay with being misgendered at my wedding, misgendered on my civil partnership certificate, elope to Scotland or… well, or get my gender recognised at both considerable financial cost and by submitting myself to bureaucratic torture. And allow my name to be added to a secret government list of trans people. Just so I can safely and legally get married to the person I want to marry. Read this by D H Kelly  or any of my many previous posts on the topic to get an idea of how difficult and expensive and transphobic the current system is. There’s apparently going to be a consultation “in the Autumn” so now seems like a good time to write down our lines in the sand – those things that are absolutely necessary and not negotiable.

For any Gender Recognition system to work at all it must be:

  • Available to all ages, including children.
  • Available to all people, including those who are not citizens
  • Free or extremely low cost
  • Available for every gender and none
  • Possibility of having more than one gender legally recognised as the genders of one person
  • Possible to change over and over again with no limits on how many times or how often
  • Based entirely on self-definition with no medical opinions, no length-of-time-you-must-be-out first and no panel with the ability to refuse to recognise someone’s gender
  • Everyone who has a gender recognition application currently waiting to be seen by the Gender Recognition Panel should be approved for gender recognition right away, before the new self-definition method starts – they’ve waited long enough
  • No veto power given to spouses, parents or anyone other than the individual whose gender needs to be updated
  • No records kept of who updated their gender and when.
  • The destruction of the current Gender Recognition Register and apologies (and compensation) to those whose information was stored in it
  • Updated birth certificates available as quickly and simply as possible and at the same cost as obtaining a copy of any birth certificate
  • Immediate ability to marry in the updated gender (if adults otherwise able to marry)
  • Immediate ability to have updated marriage or civil partnership certificates, change from a marriage to a civil partnership or vice versa or update names and genders of parents on a child’s birth certificate
  • The minimum possible number of people and pieces of paper should be involved to update a gender. Ideally, one would be able to update your own gender by writing a letter to HMRC but I would also accept a deed poll like system (see below).
  • A legal assumption that a person’s gender is what they say it is regardless of what their paperwork says and paperwork only required for the tiny number of occasions when one’s gender is legally relevant

In the UK, we currently treat names very much like I wish we treated gender. Your name is whatever you say it is, you are assumed to be named whatever you say you are named, you can have more than one name and you can change it instantly and easily as often as you like. Where it is legally relevant exactly what your name is, you might need paperwork. Updating your paperwork name can be done instantly with one piece of paper and a witness or two. No courts, no fee, no solicitor required. Even changing the name of a child can be done without a court or a solicitor if everyone with parental responsibility agrees to the change. Although deed polls don’t change birth certificates, the mechanisms to change information recorded on birth certificates does exist – if your parents marry after you were born, even decades afterwards they can still re-register your birth to show them as married and change your birth name to their married name if that’s different from what your birth certificate says your name is. It’s not that the structures needed to update names and genders on birth certificates on request don’t exist – it’s really that the people behind some of the current laws on gender recognition and on marriage would really like to make it very difficult for trans people to legally exist as ourselves.

Other things I really, really want to happen but am not sure should be considered absolutely essential:

  • EVERY BIRTHING PARENT be given the option to be listed as “Parent”, “Mother” or “Father” on their child’s birth certificate (currently you have to be a “Mother” if you give birth, even if you are legally male). Same for the other parent.
  • Any adult of any gender(s) be legally able to marry any other non-related adult regardless of their gender(s). This would require significant changes to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act which long time readers will know I advocated for *before that bill was passed*. Unfortunately, the Act doubles down on making marriage gendered and essentially created “ManWithWoman Marriage” and “Same Sex Couple Marriage” as two different, still separate institutions.
  • Phasing out recording sex at birth in the first place. This would really, really solve a lot of problems for everyone and one state or another is going to have to go first. If we stopped assigning people legal genders, we’d eventually no longer need to have structures in place to update those genders. People would have genders in the same way they currently have races and religions – by ticking boxes on the census and on equality monitoring forms without anyone telling them they’re wrong if one year they start to tick a different box.
  • No step between “Fill in this form” and “Get your records updated”. Currently you have to wait to receive your Gender Recognition Certificate and then use that to get a new birth certificate. That doesn’t seem at all necessary and has lead to a lot of orgs demanding (illegally) to see your GRC before they’ll update your gender records
  • Give all trans people the protection of privacy that GRCs are supposed to give to just some of us. If it’s against the law to out some of us as trans, it should be for all of us with or without a piece of paper
  • Honestly I wish they would fire every single person in the civil service who came up with the Spousal Veto
  • Updating your gender to no longer be considered grounds for divorce (and preferably for the UK to get “no fault” divorce already) or grounds for a celebrant to refuse to marry someone

Please think about how much the current system must suck if I can put some of this stuff into “Nice to have” instead of “absolutely essential”. Some of those could easily go into “Absolutely Essential” and that’s where some other people are going to want to put them. Other people are likely going to look at my list of “Absolutely Necessary and Non-Negotiable” and think “We’re never actually going to get all of that” and will demand the much less they feel we’re actually likely to get. If you are that way inclined, please don’t. Please don’t drop trans children’s or nonbinary trans people’s needs so that binary trans adults might get ours. Please don’t settle for a system that’s LESS traumatic rather than one that’s NOT traumatic or one where fewer people get a say on your gender but you still don’t get to assert it yourself.
We might not get the sort of system I’m asking for but if we don’t AIM to get a radical, self-definition only, updates to certificates etc on demand for everyone, no fucking secret list of trans people, all genders and all ages system then we will guarantee that we don’t get one. Aim for the best not what you think you can get away with. Please.

There’s a consultation coming up. We’re not sure when yet. When it does, please, please make all of these demands as clearly as you can. Our genders are ours and the government has no right to dictate them to us.

And I really think I’d like to get married without misgendering myself. Please, I need your help to make that even possible.

News from YetAnotherLefty

Hello readers,

Depression is eating posts again so here’s a short round up of what I’m up to.
Firstly, for my #DWPDiary, I got my PIP award. They’ve massively underestimated how my disability affects me (and contradicted reports from my social care assessment) but they’ve awarded me Enhanced Care and Enhanced Mobility for five years so I’m not going to appeal even though I honestly believe the award should be longer . None of my incurable progressive conditions are going to get any better! But at least I won’t have to worry about my PIP for four years now.

Pride is happening where I am, yay! I went to a very local Pride and it was great. I don’t go to the big city Pride because I know it’s not going to be accessible for someone like me. And because police and corporations dominate Pride and people I know get arrested for protesting this. I started a post last year about Pride and about how I notice which businesses put Pride flags up…. and how quickly they pull them back down. Look out for that post in the next week or so (I hope).

I recently fact-checked my previous assertions on this blog that the current marriage and gender recognition laws in the UK essentially prevent many (most?) transgender people – including me – from getting married. There will be an in-depth post up soon as I unfortunately discovered that I was entirely correct. Until marriage and/or gender recognition laws are fixed in this country, I can’t get married. To anyone. Unless I submit information about my genitals and reproductive organs to a government panel and have my name permanently on a government owned list of trans people. Which.. no.

As the world seems to be slowly turning into a fascist dystopia and people argue about exactly how fascist and dangerous things should be before it’s okay to counter-protest and fight back, I would like to make my stance very,  very clear. As I’ve written before, fascists should be countered and blocked and sabotaged and isolated at every turn. They should be afraid to express their genocidal aims and they should be prevented from gathering, from preaching, from anything that might further those aims. And yes I am totally in support of punching them if it will stop them speaking or make them afraid to be fascist in public. Fascists are like baobabs, you need to deal with the problem while it’s tiny and not allow it to grow roots. I am friends with people who’ve been doing this work for years, it’s time you all caught up. You don’t have to punch anyone yourself, you don’t have to single-handedly destroy fascism or be a hero – but you can’t ignore the fascists, you can’t treat those of us who stop them as “just as bad”. Even if you can’t do anything else, please don’t condemn the people trying to save you. If all you can do is cover over their swastika graffiti, do that. If all you can do is make friends with the people the fascists want you to hate, do that. “It is not on you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it” – please do something towards stopping the fascists and/or towards true freedom from oppression for all.

I feel very strongly about this. I’m Jewish and disabled and queer and trans, they are coming for me. They want a world where people like me cannot exist.
Every time hate crime levels here rise, I feel more obliged to wear my Jewishness and my queerness visibly. I feel obliged to refuse to pass for a heterosexual Christian man just because that would be safer. I insist on walking around as someone many people actively want to get rid of because doing so reminds everyone who sees me that difference is here and it is staying. It reminds me that I am different and different is not less. I will not be part of anyone’s effort to erase diversity and while I am, yes, scared to look Jewish and queer and disabled all at once, I will insist upon doing so because my differences are my strength and I refuse to be ashamed.

ATOS-ed Again

Just for my DWP diary, I will quickly note that I had another PIP Assessment two or three weeks ago. The actual appointment was far less awful than I was expecting (though whether or not the report they make from it will be remotely accurate remains to be seen) but the experience of getting to and from the building , getting around the building and sitting in the waiting room was awful.

We’d told them in advance that we needed wheelchair access and preferably a ground floor room. Whilst we did get seen in a wheelchair accessible ground floor room, the assessment centre was located really far away from any bus stops and there was no wheelchair accessible route to the building – the choices of routes where “walk on the road cos the pavement is too narrow for a wheelchair” or “Steep ramp up to another slightly less steep ramp followed by 20 metres of cobblestones and then cross the car park while cars are moving”. So, no, not wheelchair accessible at all really.
We spent over an hour in the waiting room, regularly being told it’d be another 10 minutes or so until we were seen. It was an extremely hot day – one of the hottest so far this year and it was hot inside too but no one dared to leave. One woman nearly fainted from the heat. My boyfriend eventually worked out that there was air-conditioning – they just hadn’t considered turning it on. He asked them to turn it on and they did but seriously, who expects vulnerable people to sit for hours in extreme heat and doesn’t think to use the air-con that is available?
And maybe I’m being petty here but: while I avoided the terribly uncomfortable seating by staying in my wheelchair, the seats were laid out in a pattern creating corridors between rows of seats and the pattern left no space for any wheelchair users to park. All three wheelchair users in the room had to just block of a bit of corridor at the end of a row and hope no one would need us to move. It was as if they didn’t expect us.
Another sign that they clearly didn’t expect wheelchair users was that all the internal doors had to be opened for me by two people for me to pass through. No “Press to Open” doors or large light doors with easy to open handles. Just heavy doors that I couldn’t have opened.

Like I said above, the assessment itself went much better than I’d expected – this time they didn’t ask me why I was still alive with my suicidal thoughts, didn’t ask me how I got PTSD and didn’t make me do any unnecessary physical exams (all of which happened at my first PIP assessment). But really I wish the constant assessments would stop and the fear of the next new and exciting way ATOS and the DWP can dehumanise me and threaten to impoverish me could lift.