You are viewing missdennisqueen

Not-handout for Sheffield University talk

rights not charity

It was inspiring coming to meet disabled students, staff and allies at Sheffield University last evening. There's an upsurge of campaigning and coming together happening which has great promise and it was fab to hear how "Disability Week" is going. I hope the trend continues and people increasingly come together to support each other in campaigns there and that the talk tonight has added some more food for thought.

I'm having a little trouble with my blog tonight, some things have changed on LJ and I can't work out how to increase the font size. I hope people can manage to increase it on their browsers if need be. Also the cartoons and campaign photos I wanted to share are coming out tiny so I have taken them off. :(

So as promised here is my not-handout. Hope the links etc are useful :) just some bits I thought people might be interested in.

Some information on the Social Model of Disability and what it is about.

These exerpts from “Models of Disability”

Alan Holdsworth, founder of DAN.

The Individual Model

The individual model of disability says that disabled people are the problem. The problem is the impairment you have and it is your responsibility for what happens to you. You are a burden.

Disability as a tragedy…..

Disability as Charity….

Disability as a medical problem. (or medical model)

The Social Model of Disability

In 1975 a group called the Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation, all disabled people began meeting to talk about how disabled people were perceived and treated by society. From this Mike Oliver coined the phrase the "Social Model" which became a new way of looking at and thinking about disability created by disabled people themselves.

* The social model of disability is the recognition that disability is caused not by a person’s impairment, but by the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a society which takes little or no account of people who have impairments."

Independent Living...

these exerpts from Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People

The “Seven Needs of Independent Living” identifies the barriers that prevent disabled people from living independently, and shows how those barriers can be removed. Information: Peer Support: Housing: Equipment: Personal Assistants: Transport: Access:

Social Model of Disability by Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People


Traditionally disabled people have been seen as a “problem”, and the answers have been to try and cure or care for us. Over the last thirty years disabled people have increasingly challenged this approach and we have developed our own theory on why we are excluded from society and its activities.

This following information is aimed as a simple introduction to the Social Model of Disability and to explain what it means.

Impairment: Some disabled people’s bodies are different – part of our bodies work differently, might even be missing. We call this “impairment” and we live with this every day and know all about it, more than any doctor, nurse, welfare professional or charity worker. However, the fact of our difference does not make us “less” than non-disabled people. However, society has always seen that there is something “wrong” with us, even to the extent of experimenting on us at times.

Disability: When a disabled person is prevented from carrying out a particular activity, such as getting on a bus, because their needs have not been addressed, we call THAT disability.

Barriers such as inaccessible information, housing and transport, segregated and/or poor quality schooling, hostile environments and attitudes and ways of working which exclude disabled people – these are what underpin our continued exclusion. However, If society were to arrange things differently (e.g replace steps with ramps, make all telephones with a text facility provide more information in Braille and on tape etc) then the barriers that stop us being independent could be removed and our needs met.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights (Article 1) and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind (Article 2). "

Information, References and Resources

Some references now relating to the talk I gave

This information via my colleague at Leeds University Steve Graby

"the Disability Archive hosted by Leeds Uni which has loads of really important stuff (including whole out-of-print books as well as reports from Disabled People's Movement
conferences, old Coalition articles, UPIAS founding documents, etc) free if anyone wants further information:

In particular..

Abberley, P. (2002) 'Work, Disability and European Social Theory' inBarnes, C. et al (ed.) 

Disability Studies Today, Cambridge, Polity Press, pp. 120-138Gleeson, B. (1999) Geographies of Disability, London, Routledge Oliver, M. (1990) 

The Politics of Disablement, Basingstoke, Macmillan

Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (1976)
Fundamental Principles of Disability, London, UPIAS

not all these totally agree with each other - eg. Paul Abberley
criticises the others for focusing on getting disabled people into
paid employment as the best route to liberation because many disabled
people wil never be able to do "productive" work "

And here are some recent papers considering the social model from colleagues/

Enjoy this paper from activist and artist Liz Crow


by Liz Crow - 

Another interesting paper by activist Debbie Jolly

A tale of two models

by Debbie Jolly – 

A few interesting Disabled people, Organisations and Campaigns

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) DPAC are organising regular protests against the cuts affecting disabled people and ATOS assessments. so if you're interested in that street campaigning check them out.  you can also find DPAc on Facebook here

Reverse The Bias Towards Segregation is an uprising against Cameron's decision to 'reverse the bias towards inclusion' in education.

Alliance for Inclusive Education

Black Triangle Campaign are also working hard campaigning against the cuts.

Crippen.. Disability Cartoons probably the best disabled cartoonist in the world!

Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People campaigns for the rights of disabled people and has some great new info pages including this about the history of the disabled people's movement

Just cos I love this..

Liz Crow's Protest on the Plinth

More About DAN

Disabled people's Direct Action Network, D.A.N.

and see archive footage from DAN's hayday ..

Desperate DAN video utterly awesome!

DAN haven't organised any protests in a few years now. Most street activists still protesting are involved in DPAC now.. :)

Sid Baility:

The Disabled Peoples' Direct Action Network (DAN) organised a lobby of the Surgery of Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking and Dagenham on Friday 28th April 2006.

My contact details and where to find me..

Feel free to get in touch if you wish to discuss these matters further. Right now I do not have an accessible computer so I don't come online very much. I am also doing very little right now in the way of activism as I am occupied otherwise in home education.

You can contact me on 07970 959791

You can add me on Facebook to see information, politics and action notices when I do go on or have more regular access.

Or follow me on Twitter as I am an occasional Twit.

You can read lots of stuff I have written on my blog here

heart hand warmer
I've had a chat with a World Service journalist, Chloe, who is interested in producing a radio piece about how much MORE radical our approach to marriage could be in respect of recognising (legally) serious multiple relationships in the UK. I am likely to be interviewed with regard to this in respect of my own family, but also as a CAAN-er who has seen a fair bit of discrimination against people due to prejudice about our families. It would be great to have someone/s represented whose family would benefit from multiple marriages/ polygamy at this present time as a case study.

I know it is hard to find representatives from our lifestyle to talk to the media, as many people in the poly community are worried about prejudice and being outed and some have even been told by employers not to mention their poly status in the media, for example. Marriage might make the sort of discrimination we can face less likely, so that is on topic. Due to this kind of thing, unusually, this interview could be done anonymously.  This is expected to be a rather political piece, for once not focussed on how sensational our lives are, but on how gay marriage is only the TIP of the 'equal marriage' issue and how we are discriminated against.

For more information, pls read the rest. And please share this with your poly friends x

I'm a journalist with the BBC and I'm planning on reporting on
the lack of marriage/civil partnership rights for people in polyamorous

While Britain is congratulating itself for passing laws to allow
gay people to get married those people who are in loving committed
relationships with more than one other person don't have any kind of
marriage rights and are still being discriminated against.
I would like to tell their stories and bring this issue into the public
sphere for debate.

My reports will require interviews with people who are willing
to tell me a little about their lives and how their relationships work
(in general terms) and also how they feel they have
been discriminated against.

If you feel you would like to speak to me but are worried about
being identified I am very happy to keep you and your partners
anonymous. I will make sure I hide all identifying factors, not just
your names so that it will not be possible to identify
you. What's important is your story not your identity.

If you agree to talk to me I will come and meet you (and if you
are willing your family) it would just be me - no other crew members. I
will be recording your voices for the radio but there won't be any
cameras and no photos unless you are happy for
me to take a picture of you.

I would need about 30 minutes to an hour of your time.
Everything would be pre-recorded not live and you will be able to guide
me on what you want to talk about and what is off limits.

With this report I am looking to paint a picture (in words and
sound) the ordinary family lives of people who chose to live in
relationships that don't follow the conventional model and how they feel
the lack of recognition by society of those relationships
impacts negatively.

The reports I am planning will be in the form of a written article for BBC NEWS online and also for radio - Radio 4 , probably PM and
BBC World Service which is the international station that broadcasts
around the world.

I don't have a deadline for this report but I would like to get
it out there within the next couple of weeks while the subject of
extending marriage rights is still in the news.

If you prefer to only talk to me via the telephone for the article that is also OK.

Please feel free to call me to ask any questions about what the
interview would involve and to discuss any concerns you might have.

If you want to know more about me please just google my name and
BBC and many of my articles will appear - you can also find some of my
radio reports at

I think this is an important and rarely discussed issue and I hope you can help me turn it into more of a national debate.

My contact details are below.

Many thanks,

Chloe Hadjimatheou

Reporter/ Producer

Greek mobile: (30) 6943168522

UK Mobile: (44) 7974 105829

Not cut, SHREDDED, for profit

I'd rather go to jail than die in a nurs
A great article from Simon Duffy this morning about the care cuts - something which gets mentioned lots less but is massively important to understand how cuts are affecting disabled people such as myself. For many of us the life saving care we receive is the difference between breathing at night, lying in our own s**t, or getting out of bed or not - meanwhile Government seem set to smear disabled people as lazy workshy scroungers!

Join or suppor this protest if you want to help and see DPAC's website for other protests coming up! 

I discussed in my previous blog that my family is hit by cuts on more than one level and Simon explains perfectly what my family faces, though we ALSO face having a child out of education the LEA won't fund to stay in their local school. The full whammy?

I've been repeatedly saying in my blog that the issue here is not that disabled people are expensive to the state, but that we generate profit in dependence. As I said on the Big Question on Sunday, Government is not so much saving money as it is redirecting it from people to it's chosen businesses. Nice to have a piece of current evidence!

I continue to worry how long before Government offer a contract to Dignitas.. and I woke this morning mumbling to my carer / PA that people want us to be smothered with a pillow, having fallen asleep thinking how awful it could be i Alec Shelbrook and Victoria Ironside put their heads together

The Big Question & Alec Shelbrook's NEDDs

It was truly exhilarating representing Disabled People Against Cuts as part of an awesome guest list on BBC's Sunday morning debate The Big Question yesterday. I got to meet some awesome people, including the fabulou Simon Duffy irector of the Centre of Welfare Reform Also the// incredible Alec Shelbrook MP, at whom I got to wag my finger, just at like a proper stay-at-home disabled mum being cut to the quick under his Government should! 

I bet a few people have enjoyed that recently. He has come up with a truly award winningly abbhorrent idea.. the Daily Shame have a charming piece about it here and an original news item is here . but check him out on Google for the full extent of the damnation abounding. It's enough to make a non partisan community activist like myself start taking sides! 

I wonder who would profit from this scheme? Who will profit from organising it? Which chosen retailers will profit? And will everyone paid by the taxpayer (including Alec) be getting one of these lovely pieces of plastic? We get tax credits because we are a large family surviving on a low income... how the heck does this out of touch bloke know what a family like mine with so many extra difficulties needs to buy, exactly? 

Apologies for my late arrival, I did my best once I got there and no doubt like all participants there's so much more I could have said. I was so ill I couldn't move for a while in the morning, so I ran 45 mins late and then the first accessible transport wouldn't take my chair, but the kick ass production team persisted and got me there in the end to join in which was wonderful.

It is a shame I didn't get to explain on the show the extra costs of living faced by some families and how disability fits into the equation. Yes all families are 'poorer' but some are more able to 'manage' than others. Some of us can't access work due to the way it's organised. Some people are too ill to be at work anyway. And we are excluded almost everywhere from the job market.

The BBC were ok for their debate show, but how many other employers would tolerate my being 2 hours late due to sick and access? Many people can't get to work without accessible transport so many people who now have transport will lose their jobs when they lose their DLA.. I may be in that position soon.. and I haven't passed my driving test. Soon it may not have been worth bothering.

How many employers would cope with me not being there at all today, because I can hardly move and the pain is so terrible I am stuck in bed with both my typing fingers for company, on a borrowed laptop I only have sometimes? And that my wife was an hour late for work because my carer was sick so she had to help at home before taking one of our kids to school? And how many employers are willing to take me on in the first place, or even my wife? Where is the government drive to assist employers to stop discriminating against us and making work and workplaces more accessible? Why are disabled workers and the least affluent in society being penalised for it?

AND..... who will look after my child and home educate him if I get this imaginary job? I don't HAVE a 'granny' up the road. By the way, who would be paying HER way if I did? I only have a few hours I can work though, because I need to pick up another child at 3. My job would need to pay well too please, because we're supporting a family of 5 and I am too worn out to be a lady of the night, like other mums I know are having to do.

Send application forms now! I will wade through the queue of job invitations and offers of cash. I'm only skint because I don't try hard enough, you know!

at dpac protest

Oh I DO get to work, but I don't get PAID, which is why government is supporting my wife to stay in work by helping a bit. This is why I have a care package so I can be capable of parenting, or that would fall to the state too. The total cost of my family being dumped on the state would be phenomenal. Who will manage my family if the main carer (me) in my family can't cope because of more care cuts? If I have to choose between food and heat for my kids, WHO IS GOING TO WALK TO THE FOOD BANK FOR ME? Not Alec Shelbrook, he's off in his thousand pound plus a month flat which US taxpayers pay for!

Meanwhile I save up for his government.

For example, I am home educating a child - due to the governments 'reversing the bias towards inclusion' and not having a local school place for one of my disabled children - at great cost to my family.. so
I am 'saving' the cost of a child in education have 'saved' for the government by now being more ill, due to having less support available at home, due to care package cuts.  I am 'saving' because my wife's wages are now worth 10% less. I am 'saving' because the organisations I used to do paid work for are shutting down and tightening up, due to community funding cuts. I am being asked to save again when the DLA cuts hit my group in 2 years, having spent a pointless grant learning to drive an adapted vehicle so I can give my child a decent education and get around to the doctor, to buy food, etc.

Maybe Alec Shelbrook could come and stay at my cramped social housing for a week and then tell me EVERYONE is living like us. Because I KNOW they aren't. I have had trouble clothing my kids recently because they grow so fast.  I already don't spend my spouse's hard earned on booze and gambling! It looks like personally, we're 'saving' a lot! Anyway, 'a lot' of 'not very much' isn't going to restore the recession! 

Why, from a familiy in that lowest 10% of earners, am I, and others worse off than me, doing more saving?  Do all the other families have the same risk of ending up in care or hospital if things keep getting worse? Why isn't the saving being done by the banks who put us into national debt, and by the companies who refuse to pay their workers anything close to the value of their labour?

In terms of cuts overall, we're actually quite lucky! I am not working for benefits in TESCO like many people who need extra support.. meaning TESCO get free staff, meaning i am taking a job from the market..... thank goodness I still have a subsidy to get around the only ways I can.  I still have two fingers to type. But there's no job for two fingers, is there? ATOS let that slip out already!

Well.. two fingers to them and Alec Shelbrook's NEDDs an' all! As I've said before plenty of times, people profit from our  position and really the government are mostly just redirecting money from people into (their chosen) businesses. And I'm looking forward to finding more about those profiting from our dependence tonight, on BBC again with 'The great disability scam' " Reporter Sam Poling reveals the private companies who are getting rich from the new reforms"

Thank you to DPAC for asking me to represent the network, it was a pleasure. The fact that anyone will even debate whether we should support the sickest people in our society who cannot work astounds me. Severely disabled people are hit the hardest - it's a buzz phrase I won't use normally, as this is not a competition - ALL the cuts affect those cut badly and we're diverse, not one thing or the other - but the statistics are there that disabled people feel it most of all, and those stating that the lowest 10% of earners pay most tax! It's crazy!

Keep fighting back, keep defending people who need our support too -we'll be snowed in otherwise under the shredded mass of other stupid ideas coming from government.

dpac protest again

Do Resuscitate: We want to live

Just had to share this great article by Ian Birrell "Reasons To Resuscitate" which discusses the horrific situation of an unnamed man with Downs Syndrome not being resuscitated (without consent) and that this is worryingly common . Ian correctly reflects most disabled people's and our families desire to LIVE.

Ian rightly shares that

"..prejudice and institutional discrimination in the NHS reflect attitudes towards disability that stain our society – especially towards people with the most complex needs." 

Ian also discusses the more day to day mistreatments faced by so many under NHS care due to prejudice about our impairments and inaccurate beliefs about our 'quality of life'.. and how this leads to deaths and abuse in the healthcare system.

Why are so few doctors prosecuted for DNR-ing people against their wishes? Actually from people I know this has happened to it's TOO LATE to get their loved one back,  and the process would just provide further stress and pain. Convenient for the doctors eh.

Meanwhile doctors without this prejudice LISTEN to our wishes and action ALL resuscitation attempts, like they would with anyone else. This leads to people in intensive care being literally hand pumped oxygenated blood at the end JUST IN CASE their body decides to play ball. Then you know when someone passes on that there was no other possible outcome.

It's the difference between 'someone dying' and 'allowing someone to die'.

Why can't more people recognise this deathly prejudice? A massive thanks to Ian for joining us in raising awareness about this. Ian has a family member who lives with severe impairment so he has a plethora of indirect and direct experience of the prejudice we face.

More on this prejudice:

This prejudice also relates to assisted suicide, mercy killings and other forms of euthanasia, and specifically in the UK the abortion of most identified disabled fetuses and infants any time til birth:

Why don't more people understand that quality of life CANNOT be improved by being dead, so death cannot make it better? Yet SO MANY other strategies CAN.

Prejudice is why.

When oh when will the general public put down their horrified imaginings about how they 'might' feel in our position and realise that (actual) disabled people who feel our lives are worth living are the active majority? A minority of non-disabled people are also suicidal, yet nobody discusses helping THEM on their way, as if this were kind. Nobody calls actively ending someone's life - killing - 'assisting' a 'suicide'.

No this 'assistance'/killing does not equalise anything! It's a 'final solution' instead of helping in another way just like we would for anyone else. It is deadly discrimination.

Prejudice is the reason people in general seem so much more interested in supporting a handful of miserable disabled people's desire to commit suicide. Would they point a gun to the head of a suicidal friend,  disabled or not? I reckon most don't have THAT level of conviction.

Why do people then think doctors would be willing to actively kill, having taken the Hipocratic Oath? Do the discriminatory and prejudiced abortions make this seem more likely?

Why aren't more people furious that families are left to 'assist' suicides out of desperation?

NONE of us want to lose the people we love AND none of us wish for our loved ones to suffer. Desperation can leave people feeling it's a choice between these two things and outside of acute medical situations, no route to death is made available as a solution. There's a REASON for that!

Even the familes of suicidal people, such as Tony Nicklinson, want to help out of love. Even so, having lost Tony, I am sure that they wish they had their loved one still, only not living in circumstances which he finds unbearable.

In reality there's very few of us (except those living with shock and severe depression) who would feel killing us, or taking us to be killed, was loving. Most of us feel if we were that depressed we'd like SUPPORT to live better lives, not death and if we're otherwise impaired, that what we need is the tools and access to live a decent life.

If in doubt, then our right to live must be preserved just like anyone elses.

Tony Gets His (Death) Wish

personal asssitance not assistance to di
BBC announced today that Tony Nicklinson has died .. only days after losing his High Court bid to get someone else to kill him (aka 'assisted suicide').

This is what happened to Diane Pretty too, just days after her last failed court case.

Strange and ironic.

The upside for equality campaigners and those of us who want to live as long as possible is that now there can be no appeal to overturn the High Court judgement refusing Tony's bid to be killed.

It seems so sad that disabled people with children and lovers spend their last days trying to die prematurely instead of going to Disneyland and making the most of every minute with their families like the rest of us do.

It is deeply unloving to ask our family members to kill us. Especially when, like Tony and Diane, we CAN do it ourselves if we stop refusing rehab.

It is frightening that so many people seem to think killing 'severely disabled' people is a kindness. Us crips are the only people it's kind to kill. Any other suicidal people (should) get ASSISTANCE TO LIVE.

Yes the support offered by mental health teams is not enough and often not right - sometimes torturous - but we're certainly better off keeping on trying to improve the support on offer than asking them to hand out NHS lethal injections packs to the families of everyone who happens to have a suicidal episode.

To hand them out to just one type of disabled people is lethal discrimination.


Further thoughts on Tony's situation and some links to previous articles I've written on this subject here


After being told off for my last blog unsympathetically suggesting Tony was lying and could actually kill himself, it turns out:

News later in the day is updated and reveals Tony starved himself, got pneumonia and then refused treatment!
(same link)

dignity not death
On Tony Nicklinson.

I am glad that the High Court has denied another depressed disabled person (Tony Nicklinson) a special right to be killed.

Know what it isn't easy for some of us crips. To sympathise, I mean - Tony's attitude is quite offensive.

I am tired of the pitiful debates. I am exasperated with this dishonest man who admits denying himself a better life but blames it on his body.  I agree Tony needs to see his doctor - not for a lethal injection, for some anti depression support and a kick up the proverbial about how life can get much better if he puts down his fear and self loathing and lets it.

Come on Tony! Give life a go  - almost all of the rest of us manage without suicide. Try living before you throw your life away dude!

I've been asked today again to explain my position on 'assisted death' and 'assisted suicide', so here's the short version:

Nobody needs *assisting* to die - we die when our time's up.

Anyone 'assisting' someone to die (except where it is a welcome side effect of genuine medical  treatment) - is helping kill someone - is breaking the law - whether the suicidal person is disabled or not

I support the campaign against having one law permitting the killing / assisted suicides of disabled people and another law criminalizing it for everyone else.  This would be an unfair and unrepresentative valuation of our lives - making us legally of much less value than anyone else.  Anyone else who is suicidal gets HELP from their doctors, not a lethal injection! How would that be 'more equal'?

I respect that some people (a tiny minority of humans, mostly non-disabled) choose to end it all. Almost anyone can have a suicide if they have their independent living needs met. Almost all disabled people choose not to, although the newer ones may need to get over some grief and many of us have lived with depression. More of us are fighting for our lives than have ever killed ourselves.

The reasons for 'helping' disabled people to kill themselves are flawed and rooted in prejudice, internalised oppression, lack of independent living and scare mongering / fear about the future.

I don't want the state to sanction, action, permit or ignore the killing of disabled people, (including those experiencing mental distress and dissent) more than they already do.

For more on what I believe and why read the article here in The Independent.

And for a much more detailed piece, see here  on Heresy Corner.


What is livejournal doing? My last post included links I never made  to an IPOD?! How do I stop it? I'm a paid member too!


Semi-retired in active times

I'm stuck on minimal duties for the forseeable. Which is frustrating because there's such a lot going on right now in the world of activism and such a lot needs to be done. And I miss ya'll.

Due to changes in our personal circumstances, I am no longer looking for paid work and able to fill my day with activism. I am now pretty much full time being housewife and mother for my family, as we are now home educating one of our disabled kids due to exclusion and discrimination within the school system.

I intend to remain involved in things where possible, in particular where work in short bursts is viable (eg occasional: media interviews and filtering, one off workshops or speaking, signposting, emergency advocacy, etc). We're currently in the middle of some interviews to raise awareness about polyamory, for example.  And we need more polyamorous people involved so please consider joining in if this is relevant to you (get in  touch for details). However, sadly, my intention of taking part in organising a local DAN action is failing miserably due to lack of regular weekly time resources.

I am going to try and attend protests where I can, indeed I hope to join others from DPAC in Manchester on 31st to protest against ATOS.  I'm hoping to support UKUNCUT further and attend what I can now a Manchester UNCUT is activating. I'm also watching the current swell in the Trades Unions movement via Unite The Resistance .

Also CAAN are launching a new website which will be easier for our organisers to manage sans WebMaster. And we'll be seeing more going on there soon.

For now I suggest local DAN people support existing protests against the cuts and re disability rights - DPAC and UKUNCUT are the people to follow. If we can get enough DAN people at one of these, there's nothing to rule out some spontaneous DAN naughtiness afterwards...  is there? *grin*

All Prejudice Is Everyone's Problem

This blog didn't show on feeds etc. I am reposting, as i believe the contents are important. It contains action tips as well as information and commentary.

"It started out harmlessly enough, but I ended up promoting someone who profits from racialised prejudice. I'm talking about how easy that is and how to give no tolerance to all forms of prejudice - by stopping its spread and showing no support to those who spread it."

All Prejudice Is Everyone's Problem

It was morning. I was propped in bed waiting for a fistful of medications to work, reading Twitter and for pleasant change just chilling out and listening to the fabulous singer Alison Moyet on YouTube, having clicked a link on one of her Tweets, which made me giggle. I clicked around the site awhile, following current links and then progressing to Alison's earlier music, including old Yazoo footage in which she features with Vince Clark (later of Erasure). Great stuff. All was well.

Then I had a bit of an eighties moment, reminiscing about my teens and the awesome time it was - the breakdance craze and upsurge of rap in the UK, the uprising of gay people visible in the media and pop scene, the beginning of popular electronic music and the glut of pretty androgenous popstars wearing too much make up.

I know being a teenager in the 80s helped me become the queer I am today. I wish I had appreciated it more - at the time I was mostly bemoaning how we'd missed the 'greatest time' in music history, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and so on, which our parents had enjoyed and I had spent my earlier childhood listening to Buddy Holly and The Jackson 5.

Media - music - has great appeal and great influence too - part of my own draw to writing music was about how it communicates messages to people. As a teenager, it gave me such hope to see other queers on TV, as I was raised in a traditional army family while homosexuality was still illegal in the Armed Forces- not an option for soldiers, or their family members.

Gender rules were also big in the army back then, 'wives' and girl 'dependants' (which just means a soldier's family) had to wear skirts in the Sargeant's Mess and I used to dread going there for Sunday dinner.. women were not allowed at the bar either.
Without those media people and performers, I would have had no idea who I was, or that it might be OK. I KNEW it was ok, I knew I was not alone because people were visible. So much can be learned from arts and the media and so much pride can be learned.

So, still on YouTube, I listened with a rebellious (if unnecessary) grin to some Depeche Mode and The Human League and whooped at how it was harder to tell boys from girls in those days - at least for me on the TV, if not around in my community where I lived behind barbed wire. All was still well.

OK.. I thought.. this wasn't really my favourite music back then, though I loved the people, the imagery and how it related to me and my gender and sexuality. I had pretty boys like Limahl , Boy George and The Human League on posters on my wall for the eye, but in the cassette player, in my late teens The Smiths rang out (or rather droned), morning til night at full volume, to the great irritation of my parents. I played some favourite Smiths tunes on YouTube. This is where it started to go wrong.

I shared one of my favourite songs on a Tweet with a favourite quote "Your prejudice won't keep you warm tonight". Apt for me eh? I loved that song and that band. I was happily listening to it and wondering about who might be enjoying it from my list of followers and Facebook friends. That's about 1,500 colleagues and peers I just shared that with. I try to think about what I share so I am not spamming them all, what I share has to be worth it. The quote was my justification.

I started to think about what a shame it was that this band split up.. and how I preferred their music to Morrissey's solo stuff (Morrissey was The Smiths lyricist and singer). That's when my heart sank as I remembered it later transpired that Morrissey is a purveyor of racialised prejudice - worse than that - one with a following. A following he does not need me to help him grow.

I had every Smiths Album but only bought two of Morrissey's solo albums because they were quite awful. Teenaged, I was happily listending to one of his first solo albums "Viva Hate" when I heard the most confusing and shocking song. I didn't understand it. It was about a man from Bengal in the UK - title is the cringeworthy "Bengali In Platforms". It was ridiculous and horrible, it was sarcastic about how crap the UK is and I didn't really understand much else it was about at the time, but presumed he was being in some way ironic.

I was living in Germany in the white male dominated army because my dad was a soldier - I didn't even know who a 'Bengali' was, or if I had ever met anyone whose family originates from Bengal and I thought he was talking about a train platform. Now I understand it better, of course, I hate it even more. Viva Hate.. wasn't an irony.

Even though I didn't understand it completely, what it did do was give me (at a quite impressionable age) a clear message that it was ok to talk about people this way - 'other' people.. 'othering' people. The message whilst mocking and pointing was very clear and about not 'belonging' 'here'.  Morrissey was someone I looked up to and learned from. People in the public eye need to be consider the ethics and practices they promote, especially to young people.

Back over on Twitter, I found my post with the Smiths song and hit the delete button shamefully, removing it from my wall. I tweeted again to apologise for publicising someone who promotes racialised prejudice and I posted in its place a song by Chumbawumba called The Day The Nazi Died ( lyrics here).

I won't promote someone like this and none of us should.  I'm only sharing encyclopedia links for Morrissey's work on this blog, unlike all the other artists, each of whom has their own current website linked. I'm offering Morrissey no clicks nowhere. If you want further evidence, or want to hear a good example of the kinds of things not to do and say about people (not 'other people', PEOPLE) look the song up, or its lyrics, for educational purposes yourself.

Apologists, probably hoping like I did as a child that the irony makes it ok, have defended Morrisey and suggested his own experience as someone raised in England by parents who were born in Ireland may be why he wrote the song.  Sorry dudes.. Morriseys polycultural background does not make it OK to publicise hatred and racialised prejudice.  (Morrissey also has a nasty song about a disabled infant "November spawned a monster", and being hard of hearing does not excuse that either.)

I end this section by saying, sadly, in complete contrast to his quote "Your prejudice won't keep you warm tonight", Morrissey's work continues to keep a roof over his head and blanket on his bed and he is happy to promote these ideas in his work. He does not apologise for publicising his prejudice, or view it as an error - he just assures the public that none of us would belong in an 'other' country either. Such a small town view, from someone raised in Manchester, who now lives in the USA!

So.. onto the real point of this blog, which wasn't a trip down the 80's memory lane to bad haircuts and early techno.. this isn't even (just) about promoting the information that Morrissey is a person who profits from prejudice. This is about how, while we're going about our lives minding our own business, it's easy to promote bigots who don't deserve it, if we don't think much about it. Especially well known people, for whose unpleasant behaviours media and promoters can have quite short memories. Even we ourselves would often rather ignore, selfishly clinging onto whatever we gain from it.

So what should we do?

Step one: we each have a responsibility as part of this society to never promote people who spout prejudice or hatred. It's easy not to promote people whose views are heinous, just don't. Don't share their stuff, don't buy their things, pretend they don't exist unless you intend to make a direct challenge.  If you make a mistake then be brave enough to call it out and fix it.

Also - don't harbour bigots - don't give them a platform. I have a strict policy on my Facebook wall, and everywhere else, that hatred towards anyone is unacceptable and will be removed, and that friends / followers / member will be  blocked for ignoring my request to stop. I will not give it space because I believe that gives it credit. I have blocked my own followers for this before and I am sure I will again.

The next bit is harder. If step one is not promoting it, step two is calling out prejudice. Simply saying; "That's hateful." "That's not true." "That's prejudice." And so on. Don't let it go ignored or pass as if it's ok. This can feel quite difficult sometimes, but every time we stay silent, or still, in the face of such behaviour, we tell others around us that we silently agree. Whether we want to or not.

Step 3 is challenging it.
Today I'm moving to action by utilising my error for a piece of motivational writing to share my journey today into a thoughtless mistake and state my commitment to being vigilant about these matters.

There are so many ways to take action: supporting organisations and activists who work against prejudice by working with them, by promoting their work or making donations to help people continue their work. Writing letters which challenge prejudice anywhere you encounter it - for example, if the staff somewhere are being prejudiced or discriminating against someome, tell their managers. If you are too shy to do it there and then, send an email or letter when you get home. Write blogs and other articles. Do research on the available information to re educate ourselves. If you see someone being verbally abused or bullied, speak up, or call police or security. Make sure people know everyone is welcome at events you are involved in organising, and get help if it doesn't work. Show that everyone is welcome by keeping your imagery diverse. Have a policy about fairness, for all. Fight back and encourage others to fight back too. If you see someone standing up for themselves in the face of prejudice, back them up.

Awesome polycultural activist and scholar Y Gavriel Ansara told me,

"Working against prejudice can mean grand gestures that take time, effort, and commitment. But for those of you with limited time and energy, starting to address the problem can be as simple as incorporating ways of challenging prejudice and discrimination into your existing activities. This might mean signing an online petition, making sure your next conference includes genuine diversity and not just tokenistic inclusion of diverse ethnicities, flagging a video as objectionable content, or challenging bigoted comments made by friends family and co-workers - including those that people attempt to pass off as jokes. These actions are small and manageable steps that even the busiest people can take; adding a few minutes of reflection and action to your activities can make a difference over time."

See here for more ways to take action on my blog "Join in and fight back - ways to campaign" and if you need more encouragement try "Feel the fear and fight back anyway".

Challenging prejudices we haven't experienced

It's easiest challenging the prejudices we face ourselves because we know a lot about them, how it feels, the problems it causes and their consequences. Talking about prejudice we have not experienced is a little more complex and we need to be sensitive about how we do it.

I used to be too scared to talk at all about prejudices I hadn't experienced because I was afraid to get it wrong, to be patronising or make it worse, to speak 'about' people instead leaving space for others to speak up themselves. I'm deeply aware of it because we disabled people have a lot of people who like to do things 'for us' who get it horribly wrong, to the point that people are left to die sometimes 'for their own good'.

It's a bit too close to just 'letting it happen' though, isn't it, if we're saying nothing when nobody else has.

My spouse Mxs Phoebe Queen taught me the following about being an ally.. she learned this via a reading group at Race Revolt .
If anyone has a current site link for them please share as their link won't open.

Phoebe: "It's not legitimate to ignore that we are part of a society which systemically oppresses, or priveleges, people depending on their cultural background and we all have a responsibility to work against it."

Whilst we need to be careful not to 'other' people, misrepresent or speak 'for' people, it's better to challenge prejudice and hatefulness than say nothing for fear of getting it wrong. Speak up, but be ready for criticism from people it relates to and learn to be better.

If it's a prejudice we haven't experienced ourselves, or don't have in depth knowledge of, don't try to be the expert, signpost to people who can give further information. If you know an expert, ask them if they mind advising you. I took advice and guidance from Y Gavriel Ansara for this piece and I have made changes and done research accordingly. I'm also going to share some awesome links relating to racialised prejudice below this article, which he gave me.

Keep on making the world better!

The world changes every day and each of us plays a part in it. We can be part of the solution or part of the problem. Even the things we do which seem tiny matter as every one of them influences what happens in the world. You make that happen every day and so do I.

It's not governments who make equality happen, it's a critical mass of people taking responsibility for and making a commitment to create the kind of world in which everyone belongs.

Just like every a time bit of prejudice goes unchallenged it sinks into someone's world view somewhere, each obvious challenge does too: instead of role modelling hate and acceptance of hate, we model respect, responsibility and kindness towards others.

Be brave - do what you can - always resist prejudice.. about you, or about anyone else.

With thanks to Y Gavriel Ansara for his direct support and advice to complete this post with enhanced knowledge about discussing matters relating to racialised prejudice. I'm sharing some links he shared with me below in case they are of interest to anyone else. Thank you also to Mxs Phoebe Queen for sharing her knowledge about being an ally.



darkmatter journal

"darkmatter is a peer-reviewed, open-access online journal committed to producing contemporary postcolonial critique.

In a world where anti-racism is mainstream, where racism is disavowed, and yet where ideas about race continue to structure and shape our realities, darkmatter gathers together and articulates critical thinking about race in the twenty-first century. Working within, outside and beyond the institutions and disciplines of the academy, darkmatter is a multimedia journal reconfiguring transnational anti-racist practice."


"How do bodies matter? understanding embodied racialised subjectivities" by Damien Riggs




‘Ethnic issues’ in the mental health field: Is psychiatry racist? by Suman Fernando.  Paper presented to the Beyond Multi-culturalism:  addressing issues of 'race' and privilege Conference, Manchester March 18th 2005.