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"Safe[r] spaces online": An email interview with Helen from Bird of Paradox blog

Grassroots media in Europe
LGBT and queer issues
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United Kingdom

Can you introduce yourself?
I’m an ordinary, boring, 50-something, white, middle-class transsexual woman; based in London and trying to build a life that feels more like mine and less like one I was camping out in until something better came along.

As well as my own blog, I contribute to two others - The F-Word ( and Questioning Transphobia ( ). I’m also co-curator of the Genderfork feed at Twitter ( ) and the point of contact for the London hub of the National LGBT Cancer Network ( )

What do you do besides your blog?
I have a day job in IT support for an Interior Designers’ company in SE London.

Can you tell our readers about your blog? What topics do you cover?
At Bird of Paradox I write about issues that interest and affect me as a transsexual woman: the civil, social and legal rights of transsexual women in particular – “the politics of being trans” – is a subject which motivates me more as I get further into my transition.

What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
I’ve had the blog for well over two years but didn’t really start to use it until I joined The F-Word, and then it was mostly as a personal archive of posts I’d contributed there. But I gradually started to post about more specifically trans related issues about a year ago, and it’s developed from there.

What do you hope to accomplish through your blog?
Mostly it’s just an outlet for my own writing; things that would maybe look a little out of place at TFW or elsewhere – but it’s also important to me to join the growing band of trans bloggers, on the basis that, the more people are aware of trans issues, the less we’ll have such extreme reactions to us from cis people.

What do you love about blogging? Are there any aspects you find challenging or limiting in the blog community?
It’s about the nearest thing I have to a safe[r] space online. The trans bloggers’ community is a very diverse thing – as the saying goes, “we’re a community of individuals” – and that has good and bad points. Rarely a dull moment, though, it has to be said!

Do you consider feminist blogs as part of a social movement? Do you think feminist blogs can effect meaningful social and political change at large - or do they have significance mainly in individual lives?
I think feminist – and trans – blogs have important roles to play, be that (a) by reflecting the social and political changes in their content/commentaries - or (b) by providing a place for people to gather and organize and ‘be active’, whether online or off.

Do you see yourself as part of “DIY” or “Third Wave Feminism” and if yes, what does it mean to you? Or, why not?
I don’t really identify as a ‘feminist’ any more. The word “feminist” has been so heavily colonised and policed over the past 40 years that its default meaning is actually now ‘cis woman feminist’. This centering of cis women marginalises and invisibilises trans women; it’s inherently exclusive towards us and I fear there’s little I can do as an individual to change that. If it is to change, and grow, and fulfil its potential as a truly egalitarian movement working to end oppression, then that change must come from cis women feminists themselves.

In this context it is cis women who have - and use - the power to oppress trans women; equally, they have the power not to do so, and instead to work with us in forming coalitions and alliances to bring about the social and political changes we all seem to agree are necessary for the advancement of all self-identified women, without exception. But most cis women feminists have a lot of work to do before we reach that point, and I don’t see a great deal of evidence that that work is being done by the overwhelming majority of them.

What are the most pressing issues for you in daily life?
Keeping my job! Got to pay the rent and grocery bills – not to mention the electricity and phone bills so I can keep the blog updated!

What would a woman-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-thought and transformed to be a safer, better place for women, grrrls, transgender and queer folks?
More acceptance of trans people would be a good start. I don’t expect people to understand, necessarily – but I really wish they’d stop (mis)judging us and hating on us.

A friend of mine recently said something which I’ve been thinking about a lot: “The question wasn’t how can we build ourselves into a safe space–but how can we undo an unsafe space?” And that applies across the board: as a trans woman, I am no safer in cis women’s spaces than I am in cis men’s spaces.

What are some of your personal wishes/visions/ideas/plans for the future, if you would like to share them?
I’d like to be able to get home in one piece. No harassment, no abuse, no violence. Just another face in the crowd, nothing to get excited about. Trans women are humans, too.

Note from the interviewer: Cis-gender, as defined by Helen, means "a gender identity formed by a match between your biological sex and your subconscious sex. May also be used as a synonym for non-transgender (‘trans’ means across; ‘cis’ means on the same side)." For a glossary of common terms and definitions related to *trans issues please see Helen's post "Trans 101" at the F-Word,

Helen, blogger
Red Chidgey and Elke Zobl
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