We Can Do Better Than This is edited by journalist and author Amelia Abraham
Adam Eli is an American activist and writer known for his work in LGBT activism. His first book, The New Queer Conscience, was released in June 2020Taken from the blurb
The concept of the book
The book is called ‘We Can Do Better Than This’ – not as in challenging the sickbag’s activists’ appalling behaviour with regards to online abuse, death threats and making unfounded accusations against the other side (most notably the Good Law Project in conjunction with Mermaids and the LGBT Foundation trying to strip LGB Alliance of its charity status), but as in ‘if we do more of this, we can get better at this’. Or summink. I’m not quite sure, but from where I’m sitting they’re going nowhere fast.
The book is an anthology of over 35 voices (all the usuals, like Travis Havaburga, it really is a small world). It’s about mapping ‘new global frontiers in the fight for’ LGBTQ+ rights.
Eyeballing the content list, the first section is ‘Safety’ and first chapter is written by Tom Rasmussen and called ‘Crystal’s Make-up’. Havaburga’s is ‘Everyone is Trans, now what?’ (Super Trans?). Owen Jones has written a chapter. ‘Pronouns as portal magic,’ sounds like a drag. Anger about ‘forced intersex surgeries’ is another chapter. In other words, same old, same old.
Anyway this was the launch party held online and I logged into to see exactly what they had to say.
The bookshop Gay’s the Word were sponsoring a charity for the event, an LGBT homeless charity, because the LGBTQI+ community are the most endangered and hidden homeless people you will come across (which is why you don’t come across any).
Shon Fay was introduced as a ‘comedienne’ – though for some unexplained reason he decided to play it straight all night. Amelia Abraham is the journalist who has edited the anthology and told us that it was much more serious in tone than her previous work Queer Intentions. There was apparently a lot of ‘queer anger’ in this book.
Amelia read out a quote from Tom Rasmussen’s essay, which predictably involved the outside world seeing all the crazy wrong stuff and ‘not the gift we are’. Things that Rasmussen isn’t able to do: hold his boyfriend’s hand and register his pronouns. Shon was busy flicking his hair.
Amelia had listened to the feedback from her last book and had now included asexual voices and increased the representation of voices from across the globe.
Shon told us that the UK now has the most homophobic government we have had since the 80s and that it had even attacked Stonewall (who he works for).
Amelia told us that LGBT people didn’t just always want to entertain people, they also wanted to make space for real discussion. She asked her writers what the problems were. The first drafts of many of the essays were very traumatic, so she asked them to write them again to lighten them up, such was the trauma.
Shon wanted to know how Amelia chose the writers for the anthology and noted that some were ‘household names’. This is news to us all. Is Owen Jones a household name now? Only on the hell hole of Twitter. But Shon used the plural, so presumably he thinks Beth Ditto is one too. I had to look her up – she’s the fat lesbian who used to lead the American rock band Gossip, and not to be confused with Marilyn Manson’s ex-. Ditto now dates a ‘trans man’ and has spoken about her ‘straight privilege‘. Lucky her.
Amelia told us that writers were chosen for the personality and their humour, plus she knows most of them personally (it always helps to be on that Z-list carousel).
The asexual activist – Yasmin Benoit
Yasmin, who could rival Shon for her hair flicking abilities, read an excerpt from the essay what she wrote, which went something like this:
In 2019 Yasmin had the opportunity to open up a two day pop-up bar at Pride for asexual people only. It was called the Ace of Clubs (geddit) and the asexual flag was draped outside, whilst inside there were bean bags in matching colours. People had insightful discussions in which Nicki Minaj, the asexual icon, featured. Her documentary was screened. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Budweiser were keen to help so sponsored the event. People got drunk. Yasmin felt recognised for the first time in her life. She also met another black asexual woman. Yasmin is sick of being asked if she masturbates. One percent of the population are asexual, which means there are 75 million asexual people worldwide! (Just think of all the non-mating possibilities!) There are lots of them but at the same time it is necessary to have separate dedicated spaces to meet because there aren’t that many of them. Invisibility has negative impacts on her life and the discrimination and abuse she suffers is about others’ lack of education.
Amelia asked Yasmin about the exciting hashtag she thought up – #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike. Yasmin responded because she is an underwear model, she often doesn’t meet people’s expectations of what an ACE person looks like. Yasmin wanted to give back to the community.
Amelia – asexual is against heteronormativity but how did Yasmin think it fitted into Pride? Yasmin told us she first went to Pride in 2014 and met asexual people. Interestingly she noted that there were a lot of straight people as well. She has received a ‘backlash’ from the ‘community’, asking her why she was there and that she hadn’t suffered enough.
Amelia asked what her hopes were for asexual visibility? Yasmin robotically answered that she wanted asexuals to become part of the conversation, for it to be taught in schools and to become a protected characteristic in the UK Equality Act.
Shon told us that as a teen he had identified as asexual, then he realised he had gender dysphoria.
Back to Shon interviewing Amelia
Amelia admitted to belonging to an echo chamber and also reads a lot of queer theory. One of the essayists she had chosen was Andrew Gurza, a disabled Canadian queer activist, who had written an essay about single disabled people having reduced benefits upon marriage (having a look at his blog, he also argues that disabled people should be taught how to have sex and that ‘wheelchairs belong in kink spaces‘).
There was also an inspirational essay about reappraising pregnancy as akin to transition – ‘wait until the terfs get hold of this,’ quipped Amelia – little realising that such comparisons will only infuriate newly hatched terfs, anything older than 3 months will simply roll their eyes and give out a Pftt.
Havaburga’s essay was about transness as a spectrum (not a new idea) and that transphobic people have a problem with their own gender identity (again, not a new idea).
Shon then told us about his own essay in the anthology – Trans Influencers – and what it was like to be trans in the online world and said that it was the ‘real world’ for a lot of trans people. Capitalism was exploiting trans people for their ad campaigns, and he and friends had to make decisions as to whether they should ‘wear the lipstick’ or not. He started by visiting a cosmetic surgery clinic where men go to have facial feminisation surgery (‘they get their faces mashed up’) which was something he wasn’t interested in (much!).
Amelia forced him to share the paragraph that he had got very cross with her for posting on Instagram. Shon was a bit embarrassed but not so embarrassed that he didn’t want to read it out in full.
‘My first experience of identifying as a woman online was in an online chatroom in 2002, where I pretended to be a hot 22 year old with large breasts in conversations with adult men.’
Yeah it just makes me sound- I mean, like, I did … erm but thanks Amelia for sharing the basically sex scene with old men and a 14 year old boy. When I joked about that on Instagram, I had trans women but also gay men telling me they do the same.Freudian slip from Shon
Then Shon told us all about his new book coming out in September, which Judith Butler has recently endorsed.
Shon went on to give us a chapter by chapter breakdown, it includes arguing that trans prisoners should not be in prison, with the final ‘spicy’ chapter his thoughts on feminism. Such was the instructiveness of his summary I felt compelled to visit Amazon to cancel my pre-order.
Question and Answer session
There were literally no other questions, so Amelia, clearly anticipating the scenario, said that it was amazing that people had logged onto the call on a Tuesday evening in summer, especially since the pandemic had been going on for 18 months now (I personally suspect that everyone was on the Tortoise call with Stonewall).
As Adam was being introduced, Shon put on his comedienne’s hat, and made some jolly remarks about the Zoom call being a bit like Eurovision.
Adam described himself as a ‘gross anglophile’ and was huge fan of Shon’s. Shon reciprocated by becoming absorbed in something just off camera, his phone most likely. Isn’t the community amazing?
Adam has written an essay called ‘Doing Better’ and read out an excerpt. At the end no one had any questions and the webinar promptly ended.
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