Ok, so this is once again a more political departure from my usual posts. But when it comes to providing safe spaces for trans people (whether for sex or for anything else) accountability has to be on top form.
So, what precipitated this post? A friend faced transphobic and transmisogynistic abuse at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern recently. I know from experience that when this happens it’s shitty. It’s shitty on the street, or in any pub, or wherever; but when it happens in a place that has been dubbed a “safe space” for trans people, it feels like a violation of trust.
I’ve heard many a tale (and experienced) transmisogyny at the hands of gay cis men (especially around Pride season, but that’s a topic for another time) but I always felt “not the RVT, it’s a queer venue, it’s a last vestige of safety”. And when this happened, I felt the expectation (as did my friend) that the staff member responsible would be held accountable and the person who had the experience would be treated with care, respect and sensitivity.
Sadly, as happens so often, this has not been the case. A person acting as spokesperson/advocate has been accused of bullying and harrassment. Rather than an apology being given off the bat, the incident was labelled an unfounded accusation.
The fact that any transmisogyny of any description happened at a queer venue as bad enough on its own, but the fact that management does not appear to appreciate the sensitivity or severity with which this should be dealt with makes me beyond sad. Trans people have to deal with this shit every fucking day and anybody who will call themselves an ally has to have the courage to stand up and admit that something went wrong.
So, here’s my brief point by point guide of how to practice good accountability if you claim to be an ally or operate what you say is a safe space:
- Acknowledge the pain and distress that your actions have caused, or your space allowed to happen.
- Being called out or told about abuse that happened on your watch is not an attack, so don’t leap onto the defensive. Step back and listen.
- Ask the people involved how they want to continue — what are their comfort levels with meeting face to face, and what would they like you to do to resolve it?
- If you think it’s all a misunderstanding, don’t jump onto “this was all just a misunderstanding, chill out” — try to see why the misunderstanding had an impact on them and if there was something you could have done to prevent it.
- Unless a trans person asks you to, don’t talk to the cops. We face violence, aggression and discrimination from the police, so don’t involve them unless the injured party requests it. And honestly, if things are so bad that you think a crime may have been committed, it’s kinda a sign that your safe space is pretty fucking unsafe.
The RVT has been unable to show any sort of accountability, and this makes it a place where I do not feel safe.
It is sad, because there are precious few trans female performers, and it feels like the spaces available for trans women to perform and be safe are ever more limited. But until they can sort their shit out, #RVTisDead2me
For more info, you can read the full exchange at rvtisdead2me.tumblr.com