OPINION: Angry Birds, Twitter threads and the need to stand up for the trans community

Irish activist Izzy Kamikaze responds to Twitter transphobia and calls for true solidarity.

irish-activist-responds-twitter-transphobia

Activist Izzy Kamikaze speaks about transphobia on Twitter, calls out bigotry and shares the need for true solidarity.

My friend Eilis has multiple pigeon tattoos and is also known as Pigeon. Even her Twitter handle pays tribute to these great survivors of the city streets. She uses the words often used to condemn them. (Some people are quick to judge.) She is @dirtycitybird. Pigeons act tough.

Her Twitter account is mostly incomprehensible (to me) technical jargon (turns out computers don’t have little people inside them) and pictures of her cat. It’s got jokes and cooking tips and pictures of kitchen gadgets, some politics also. It’s a real person’s Twitter, she chats with her friends from Repeal and other activism. If you read GCN and also have a Twitter account, chances are Pidge’s account looks a lot like yours.

Twitter is hard work for a pigeon. Her account is in her real name and she is openly trans. She’d be swamped 24/7 with transphobic abuse if she didn’t block the thousands of accounts that exist only to abuse trans people. Nobody needs to tiptoe through that sewer every single day. Pidge’s use of blocklists is practically a meme. She once accidentally blocked the entire population of Limerick. You’ll find all kinds of stuff in Pidge’s Twitter account, but you won’t find her arguing with, threatening or responding to transphobes. Life is too short to waste on pigeon haters. They’re not the people she wants to talk to.

Pigeon doesn’t tweet much these days, she’s busy with work so @dirtycitybird is 90% retweets of #BlackLivesMatter, but on weekends she tweets a little more. Her trans mom died recently. (Most LGB folks also have a more established friend, usually older, sometimes a couple, who ‘adopted’ us and kept us safe, back when we were wet behind the ears, and that’s how it was for Eilis with her trans mom.) Pidge tweeted about Mom last Saturday, she said Mom died from neglect because cis people weren’t prepared to prioritise the needs of an older trans lady.

Pidge retweeted some stuff from the hashtag #BlackTransLivesMatter. Two more dead black trans women. One of them felt close to Pidge. Her name was Rem’mie. She was 27 and she died in Philadelphia. Pidge used to live in Philly and still has family ties to the small trans community there. Rem’mie was murdered and dismembered and parts of her body thrown into the river. Pidge tweeted that it was the fourth time she could remember a trans woman’s body being found dismembered in Philly alone – not the fourth to be murdered, the fourth whose body was found in pieces.

I can only imagine how a trans woman, even a white trans woman, connected to that city feels reading about Rem’mie’s death. It must be a lot like what a black person feels when they see that cop with his knee on George Floyd’s neck. Angry words are spoken and tweeted. There was no Twitter when Declan Flynn’s murderers walked free after beating him to death in Fairview Park, but if there was, we’d have been tweeting: “Fuck being nice. Our lives are worth nothing. There is no justice. Nobody cares about our community except ourselves.” That’s what we were saying, in person , every chance we got. Thank God we did. That rage fuels every liberation struggle ever.

Pidge tweeted more than usual last Saturday, mostly about how she was sick of being nice. Being nice hadn’t worked. She was sick of calming the trans kids down online. She didn’t care anymore if they told scumbags harassing and demeaning them to fuck off and die, transphobes deserved to experience some anger. Speaking to her usual audience of LGBTQI people and friends, she challenged us: Cis people needed to take on some heavy lifting in challenging transphobia, especially in our friends and families. If we weren’t prepared to do that, we deserved her anger too. Read it for yourself. I think her meaning is pretty clear.

Pigeon rage tweeted for a little while. A few friends dropped kind words and heart emojis and she went back to work. Nothing happened for about 11 hours. Then who should appear on the scene but another little Birdy, an innocent-seeming Tweety Bird, determined to feather her own nest and not caring whose feathers she ruffles. People will believe almost any lie you tell about a pigeon. What does a pigeon matter? It’s just a dirty city bird.

Birdy wasn’t Pidge’s regular audience. Actually, she was one of the thousands who were blocked just for the pigeon to have space to say anything at all, but Birdy or a friend spots a tweet in there that can easily be used against a pigeon, if ripped from context. Who will believe a pigeon anyway? Nobody who matters to Little Birdy!

Veteran British trans activist, Christine Burns had been on Twitter that day too, casting as usual a lot more light than heat and she too was talking about how 30 years of being nice hadn’t worked out too great for the trans community.

Pidge’s younger friend Lilith was online too. She read Pidge’s thread and she read Christine’s thread and she posted, “This is very telling. Olive branches don’t work. I think cis women need to step in here. Our elders have already tried.” Lilith must have felt quite low. She is young, in early transition, she works in a public-facing trans advocacy job and here were two of her role models saying that decades of  “nice” advocacy hadn’t worked.

Transphobia Twitter story

From a trans woman’s point of view, it looked like TERF ideology was pretty close to fascism. Allies needed to step up to the plate. Lilith posted an angry tweet of her own: “Cis women need to deal with TERFs, not just us,” she began. She told me later that she was trying to frame the tweet the way a tweet about fascism or racism would be framed (and, right at the moment, would barely raise an eyebrow). Sadly, with a flock of vultures constantly waiting for a trans woman to say something, anything, they can twist into a threat of violence, Lilith played right into their claws…

Transphobia Twitter story

Remember the bullshit that both Pidge and Lilith were asking us cis allies to challenge instead of leaving it up to them? Here comes a large instalment of that bullshit right now! Little Birdy pounces on the crumb of Lilith’s tweet and adds it to the crumb of Pidge’s Tweet and suddenly both are twisted into words of incitement to violence against women. Shameless Lilith has said that TERFs should be terrified and their lives made a misery. The fact is that TERFs have terrified trans women and made their lives a misery for years. 

Birdy makes sure to mention Lilith’s employer when she tweets about her. She makes sure to mention Lilith´s employer and implies they would not approve of her words. 

Birdy knows (or doesn’t know and doesn’t care) that by next day the vultures will be calling for Lilith to be sacked and for her employers to be defunded. Here you can see one example, complete with the casual misgendering and false claim that Lilith’s picture was projected to celebrate Nollaig na mBan. (It was Imbolg, actually, but you can see these people don’t care much for accuracy.)

Transphobia Twitter story

I don’t think Birdy got much reaction on Twitter (apart from me sending her a few polite DMs, just in case she had just got hold of the wrong end of the stick – she hadn’t.) Meanwhile over on Facebook, Birdy is warming to her theme and describing my gentle, hardworking, weary women friends as “violent misogynist men”.

Half a dozen women challenge her there, pretty politely. You probably know some of these women, all Repeal activists and friends of the two women. Nobody bullies or threatens Little Birdy, (which must be disappointing, but her vulture pals don’t care much about evidence, so long as they get to bully a pigeon.) They are asking her, “Are you for real, making these tweets out to be violent threats?”

Within an hour, Little Birdy has deactivated her Twitter and Facebook. Barely a handful of women had engaged with her, none of them abusively, but it didn’t matter, because Birdy knew exactly where to find a bunch of vultures ready to pick the bones from any pigeon at any time, regardless of inconvenient facts. 

Transphobia Twitter story

By the next day, Little Birdy is in the middle of an admiring circle of vultures over on the innocent sounding MumsNet. Trans Women call it “Prosecco Stormfront”, as it’s where every vicious attack on British trans women is hatched. The tale of poor Birdy’s victimhood grows. By nightfall it’s gospel that Poor Little Birdy has been “hounded from social media” by “violent, misogynist” trans women for highlighting “violent threats” made against her personally for “believing in biology.” Her yoga business was “under siege,” they screamed in horror and she was “being called a transphobe”.

By the morning after that, Britain’s most notorious transphobe, Graham Linehan was tweeting my friend’s name and picture to his large audience of transphobic obsessives. 

Transphobia Twitter story

I think if you don’t want to be called a transphobe, or any other kind of bigot, you shouldn’t try to incite a mob against a random stranger online, just for attention or just because you know there’s a market for lies about the minority your victim belongs to. Getting called out for that isn’t harassment, Birdy! It’s accountability. ‘If you don’t want the time, don’t do the crime.’

Transphobia Twitter story

Little Birdy has a book coming out. I reckon she wanted to grab herself some of that sweet, sweet, second-hand martyrdom from JK Rowling and staged the whole non-event as a publicity stunt. I think she tried to wreck my two friends’ lives just to sell a few more books. I won’t be keeping quiet about that, no matter what lies she goes on to tell about me. The main flaw in her story is that nobody can produce a screenshot of a single threatening word said to or about her. I hope it stays that way. Unfortunately for her, when she goes crying to the press, her story is an obvious fake. Sadly there are still certain outlets who don’t draw the line at an obvious fake…

Little Sweety Tweety Birdy wanted to make her name. OK then, let’s remember her name. Her name is Estelle Birdy. She is basking in her fake martyrdom on the sites where all of our enemies seem to get on like a house on fire – religious fundamentalists, hardcore racists/transphobes/homophobes, alleged feminists, UKIP supporters and Trump fans, the whole nine yards.

She is prepared to wreck two women’s lives by accusing them of a fake harassment campaign that never happened. She has never posted a single shot of anyone harassing her, she keeps falling back on those two out-of-context tweets that weren’t posted at her or about her, but were part of activists’ personal thoughts about strategies. They had nothing whatsoever to do with her. If anybody tries to engage with you online about the alleged campaign of harassment against this nasty little bird, ask for the receipts (they don’t exist.) Feel free to tag me in. I’ll be sure to bring along a few receipts of my own.

My heartfelt thanks to every working class LGBT person (and occasional cis het too) who has come out with their fists flying, either literally or metaphorically, to defend me any time some arsehole wanted to fuck me up because of who or what I am. Let’s always keep doing that, because every time we stand back while some oh-so-innocent Birdy tries to drag a Pigeon down, the Vultures will win.

Solidarity forever to all Pigeons! Victory to the Angry Birds!

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